Leicester 21-15 Bath, Aviva Premiership, October 23
Tigers outmuscle Bath
October 23, 2010
Leicester's Toby Flood is tackled by Bath's Michael Claassens during their Aviva Premiership clash at Welford Road
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A superb all-round performance from Leicester fly-half Toby Flood inspired a 21-15 victory over Bath at a rain-lashed Welford Road.
Flood kicked six penalties and a drop goal to issue a timely reminder of his class and put himself in pole position to reclaim the England No.10 jersey for the opening autumn international against New Zealand in two weeks time. Bath centre Olly Barkley kept his side in touch with five penalties of his own but the visitors were unable to throw off the Leicester shackles and snap a seven game losing streak at the hands of their old rivals.
Both sides did their best to produce a crowd-pleasing encounter but the elements worked against them and as a result handling errors littered the game. But Flood emerged from the downpour to steer his side to an ugly but valuable win with an assured display that will not be wasted on England boss Martin Johnson.
Bath were without England captain and form Tigers stalwart Lewis Moody, who had not recovered from an eye injury in time to face the club where he spent 14 years, but fly-half Sam Vesty got the chance to lock horns with his former team-mates while prop Duncan Bell was a late replacement for David Wilson at tight-head.
Nerves appeared to blight Bath's early efforts and they were soon playing catch-up. Flood drew first blood with an ugly-looking but effective drop goal after the Tigers' pack had flexed their muscles at scrum time. Leicester's superior physicality soon brought further reward with Flood slotting his first penalty after Bath were penalised at the breakdown.
Bath's shortcomings were also evident at the lineout with the Tigers more than happy to turn the screw. Another penalty was kicked to the corner and a formidable drive was pulled down before the ball was worked wide to wing Scott Hamilton who could only spill the ball with the Bath defence stretched.
In a rare foray into Leicester territory, Bath halved the deficit with a Barkley penalty after Leicester fullback Geordan Murphy was guilty of not releasing but Flood restored his side's advantage within a minute following the latest indiscretion from the visitors.
Torrential rain and hail then threatened to bring an unpredictable element to proceedings but it failed to knock Leicester off their stride with a harsh-looking offside penalty against Barkley saw Flood add to his personal tally. But Barkley atoned for his error with an excellent long-range penalty in the face of the testing weather after Tigers flanker Tom Croft had over-stepped the mark at the breakdown.
The conditions continued to disrupt both sides' efforts to play some expansive rugby and even securing the ball became a problem. It was no surprise to see the both fullbacks tested under the high ball and although Murphy met most challenges laid down to him a lack of support handed Barkley another chance to close the gap as the break approached. The distance was too much for him on this occasion but a great break from fullback Nick Abendanon gave Bath a great attacking platform as the half drew to a close.
But Bath fly-half Sam Vesty was left cursing the wet ball as he fumbled a pass having dropped back for a drop goal and a missed penalty from Barkley with the last kick of the half summed up a frustratingly limited opening.
The rain had eased by the time the teams re-emerged and the ability of both sides to hold onto the ball had an immediate impact of the quality of the rugby on show. But it was Flood's boot that continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over with his fourth penalty heaping pressure on Bath and his fifth - after some excellent work at the scrum by tight-head Dan Cole - putting more daylight between the teams.
A questionable penalty against the Tigers allowed Barkley to chip away at the lead with his third penalty but there could be no doubt about their guilt at the breakdown moments later with the same result.
Good pressure from the Tigers then took the game deep inside Bath's 22 but they failed to capitalise and confusion in their own ranks offered the visitors more hope in the form of Barkley's fifth penalty that made it a three-point game with a quarter of an hour remaining.
With the tide threatening to turn, errors increased and the territorial game suddenly became the preferred option. But a barn-storming run from Croft lifted the home crowd and took the Tigers close to a try as the game entered the last ten minutes. Bath conjured a valuable turnover and cleared but their eagerness to shackle Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs drew the scorn of the referee and Flood gave his side some more breathing room from the kicking tee.
Bath threatened a turnaround with a late rally with Vesty driving deep into the Tigers' 22 with a penalty against the hosts brought an end to a 15 phase move. With the clock against them the pick and drive was the option only for the ball to be lost and cleared to touch by Youngs.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.