Aviva PremiershipBath (10) 27Tries: Watson 2, Joseph Cons: Ford 3 Pens: Ford 2Leicester Tigers (15) 21Tries: O’Connor, Veainu Con: Burns Pens: Burns 3
Anthony Watson scored two late tries as Bath came from behind to beat Leicester at Twickenham and edge closer to the Tigers in the race for a Premiership top-four finish.
In front of almost 62,000 fans, in their home game, Bath trailed 21-13 with just 14 minutes left.
But Wales international Talupe Faletau set up Watson’s first.
Leicester wing JP Pietersen was then yellow carded and, within a minute, Watson raced in for his second try.
Leicester had led 15-10 at the break after tries from Brendon O’Connor and Telusa Veainu, in response to a try by one of Bath’s other England regulars, Jonathan Joseph.
Bath-bound Freddie Burns, who also landed one of his two conversion attempts, then added the second of his three penalties from inside his own half to stretch the Tigers’ lead to two scores.
But, just when they seemed down and out, Bath rallied late on, Watson scoring either side of Pietersen’s removal to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on.
A yellow card for Bath’s Beno Obano evened up the numbers to 14-a-side for the final four minutes but, with England stand-off George Ford adding three conversions to his two penalties for a 10-point haul, the Blue, Black and Whites hung on.
Bath, who remain fifth, move level on points with fourth-placed Leicester, with three games left, although the Tigers appear to have the easier run-in.
Bath boss Todd Blackadder:
“We wanted to back up all the work off the field for this game with a really good performance, and we knew if we kept playing some really good rugby then we would give ourselves a good chance.
“I knew we would fire. Our preparation this week was one of the best we’ve had. Being on the back foot, we couldn’t go into our shells, and there was real belief in the second half. Everyone played their part.
“George Ford was outstanding and really controlled the game, and I am just so pleased that our players passed the character test in that we hadn’t come back from behind before in similar situations.”
“Anthony has got some gas, hasn’t he? He has got some absolute feet on him. He was outstanding. And Toby (Faletau) is back to his best. You need big-game players to really step up, and not only did he execute his role really well, he made a vital break when it really counted. That’s what a real class player looks like.”
Tigers assistant coach Geordan Murphy:
“The first 25 minutes, we played the way we wanted to, then we just switched off a little bit. We are disappointed with our lack of execution.
“We were in Bath’s 22 seven times, and we only executed twice (in terms of points) and that kills you.
“In the last 15 or 20 minutes, we just forced things and made uncharacteristic mistakes. It is a lesson for us to learn.
“It is going to be a bit of a shoot-fight to see who can probably pick up bonus points and hopefully get three wins from their remaining games.”
Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Tapuai, Banahan; Ford (co-capt), Fotuali’i; Catt, Batty, Palma-Newport, Ewels, Stooke, Ellis, Louw (co-capt), Faletau
Replacements: Brooker, Obano, Knight, Denton, Mercer, Cook, Priestland, Homer.
Leicester: Veainu; Thompstone, Tait, Mermoz, Pietersen; Burns, B Youngs; Genge, T Youngs (c), Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, Fitzgerald, O’Connor, Hamilton.
Replacements: McGuigan, Rizzo, Balmain, Williams, Thacker, White, Williams, Roberts.