Tigers avenged their record defeat to Bath earlier this year with a comprehensive 17-8 victory at the weekend that has put them level on points with Wasps in 4th and only 7 points short of Bath in second. Tigers won the game thanks to a ferocious first half where they will be disappointed to have only managed one try.
The Tigers intentions were revealed from the off; rather than kick the opening kick off clear they ran the ball from their 22. This aggressive mind set led to Tigers turning down 3 kickable penalties before claiming the try, a rolling maul with Tom Youngs burrowing his way over.
Bath's dirty play was in danger of spoiling the match as inexperienced referee Matt Carley refused to deal with the persistent off the ball thuggery of the Bath front row. Rob Webber's punch to Geoff Parling's face was baffling not given a red, or even yellow, card but Leicester did gain the penalty. When Bath offended from the subsequent lineout Owen Williams stepped up to nail the tricky kick from just inside the half way line to make it 11-3.
This was how it stayed until half time after some heroic try-line Bath defenc held Tigers attack for 21 phases in their own 22. Tigers were impatient, trying to force the ball wide, when the same kind of dogged rugby that secured the win against Sale would surely have been more effective. Tigers did have a penalty from this pressure but again were aggressive and attacking kicking it to the corner but this time Dave Attwood spotted his chance and stole the lineout.
Even with ball cleared Tigers had ample opportunity to create a score, Goneva making a notable midfield burst to within 10 metres of the line, but Bath's defence forced a knock on from Crane and this time the chance was truly lost.
Bath looked to have scored a try before half time but unlike last year the blatant forward pass was spotted and media darling Sam Burgess was denied his first score in Rugby.
During half time the fog descended and the second half was more of a slog fest. Tigers first score of the half came just 4 minutes after the resumption. Quick and aggressive Tigers defence pounced on a succession of poor Bath offloads, the final one from media darling Sam Burgess forcing Anthony Watson backwards with no support. Whilst in league he would be able to go again in Rugby Watson is penalised for holding on.
Williams slotted the 3 points from the Bath 10m line for the 11 point lead.
It was Tigers defence that then earned them their final 3 points as well. After a probing scuttling kick from Tait pushed Bath back into their own half Bath won clean ball from the line out; Ben Youngs was last in the line and rushed forwards to pressure Ford, unsettling the fly half and forcing the weak pass to Devoto. Devoto was not expecting it was was held up by the Tigers backrow of Gibson and Crane. From the scrum the inevitable penalty. And from the penalty the inevitable 3 points for Williams.
The final 20 minutes were all Bath, the west country men were asking questions but Tigers defence had most of the answers. Probably our front row were replaced 5 minutes too late, perhaps all of our subs. Bath turned down kickable penalties, whether because they really wanted the tries or have no faith in George Ford's kicking it is difficult to say.
When the 20 minutes were up Bath finally managed to score. Apparently. From the TMO pictures it appeared to be grounded well short but referee Carley awarded the try none the less. Ross Batty the second hooker to score from a driven maul.
With the clock dead and a kick for a perhaps valuable bonus point George Ford pulled the kick horribly wide, a not unusual sight for seasoned Tigers observers.
The good win was followed up with news that Owen Williams, Graham Kitchener & Fraser Balmain have all signed new contracts and the club has submitted planning documents to re-build the Aylestone Road end of the ground this summer. The club is really going somewhere at the moment, hopefully to Twickenham in May.