Leicester Tigers were beaten 23-27 by Bath Rugby in the opening game of the Aviva Premiership season at Welford Road on Sunday despite rousing late fightback.
Tigers got off to a good start with a penalty from George Ford and then a try from Manu Tuilagi, but two converted scores in a five-minute period around the half-hour from Bath centre Max Clark gave the visitors the lead and swung momentum in their direction.
When Semesa Rokoduguni then scored an interception try, Bath had a 21-8 advantage before half-time and three tries in the bag.
The second half yielded just a couple of penalties before two yellow cards for high tackles started to count against Bath, with Jonny May capping his debut with two tries for Tigers who threatened a comeback win with two late tries to set up a grandstand finale.
With a third Bath player off the field as the clock ticked to 80 minutes, Tigers spilled ball at an attacking lineout and a final chance had gone in front of a crowd of 22,582 and Bath grabbed only a second win at Welford Road in Premiership rugby and a first since 2003.
Ford was making his first competitive appearance for the club since the 2013 Aviva Premiership Final, with fellow summer signings Jonny May, Nick Malouf, Dominic Ryan and Sione Kalamafoni included in the starting team.
Bath enjoyed decent possession in the opening exchanges, twice going close to creating an opening on their left flank, only to falter with the final pass as the Tigers defence closed the door.
But the first real chance came on 17 minutes when Tigers prodded into the left corner from a penalty. After building play from the lineout, Ben Youngs went for a quick tap from another penalty 10 metres out, but the visitors defended the line and the chance to create an overlap on the right was lost.
The move ended with a Bath knock-on in a tackle on Manu Tuilagi and, after two re-set scrums, Tigers were awarded a penalty which Ford kicked to bank the first points of the afternoon.
There was real urgency in both defences, with Tigers up in the face of their rivals near halfway from the restart and Luke Charteris making a handling error which gave Tigers a platform at a scrum for the opening try of the season.
A good heave from the pack allowed Ben Youngs to attack and when Telusa Veainu and Jonny May were involved on the left, Brendon O’Connor showed good support to put Tuilagi away to score. Ford pulled the conversion attempt wide from the left as Tigers led by eight points.
The reply from Bath was almost instant, with Matt Banahan breaking down the touchline and releasing Max Clark for a run to the line. Priestland added the extras to cut the deficit to a single point.
Tuilagi thought he was away on a free run from halfway moments later but referee Luke Pearce brought play back for a Bath penalty at the ruck and Priestland pinned Tigers back with a kick to the corner. The defence stood up on the line before a quick pass from scrum-half Chris Cook gave Clark a second chance and he dived over the line next to the posts to give the visitors the lead for the first time. Priestland added the extras for a 14-7 lead.
A high tackle on Veainu near halfway brought a warning for the visitors as Ford kicked down the right touchline. But as Tigers tried to build pressure just 10 metres out, Rokoduguni stepped in and raced away. With Veainu and May in pursuit, he managed to stay out of reach to score. The conversion from Priestland stretched the advantage to 21-8 just four minutes from half-time.
The second half opened with a big scrum in their own territory from Tigers and an immaculate kick in behind the Bath defence from Ben Youngs which took play right up to the opposition five-metre line. Tigers, though, were penalised at the subsequent lineout and the chance had gone.
A big hit from Malouf on No8 Taulupe Faletau kept Bath in their own half but when they eventually broke out, Kalamafoni was penalised near halfway and Priestland was able to kick down the right for an attacking lineout.
Dan Cole was given his first run since the Lions tour as a replacement on the 50-minute mark, with Harry Thacker on for skipper Tom Youngs.
Bath threatened a fourth score, starting from a lineout drive, but Tigers held up the attack on their own line before defending a five-metre scrum.
A Priestland penalty stretched the gap beyond two scores before a clean break by scrum-half Youngs ended with a high tackle as he entered the Bath 22 and Ford landed the three-pointer.
Bath relied on their lineout drive to attack again but they were held up again on the tryline. This time, Tigers were penalised in defence and, after a warning to the home side, Priestland again knocked over the points as Bath led 27-11.
Another good position at a lineout for Tigers in the right-hand corner provided half a chance, with Thacker steering the drive at the back, but Faletau wrapped up possession and Bath were rewarded with the put-in at the subsequent scrum.
Tigers again built phases in attacking territory, with Veainu looking dangerous, but Bath hacked clear to relieve the pressure once more.
Replacement Kahn Fotuali’i was then yellow-carded for a high tackle, referee Pearce informing him that it was Bath’s fourth of the game, as the clock reached 70 minutes.
Tigers looked like making them pay with an instant response, only to lose the ball twice in attacking positions due to handling errors.
But they stayed on task, with May providing a finish on the left for his first Tigers try after Thacker had again made the initial break. Ford was wide with the kick as Tigers trailed 16-27.
Bath skipper Garvey followed Fotuali’i to the bin four minutes later, for another high tackle as Tigers forced their way back into the game, and May quickly added his second try with the visitors pinned on their line.
There was still time for the crowd to raise the roof as Veainu broke clear into the Bath half, and for Matt Banahan to become the third Bath player in the sin-bin as Tigers looked for a final thrust.
But possession was spilled at the final lineout five metres out and Bath were able to close out an opening-day win.
MARCHING IN.. TO SAINTS
On to next week for the Tigers as they now look to improve on a bonus-point loss when they travel to Northampton to take on the Saints next Saturday.
We hope you enjoyed the action and we'll see you next weekend, for all the action - right here - on Matchday Live.
WELL, WOW IS ONE WORD WE'D USE
A 50-point affair, including six tries and three yellow cards, starts the season in a flash for both Leicester Tigers and Bath Rugby at Welford Road to end the opening weekend of the 2017/18 AVIVA Premiership season.
Not the result the Tigers faithful wanted but, an entertaining way to start the historic 125th year at this venue for the men in Red, Green and White.
TIGERS FAITH SHOW THEIR APPRECIATION
The Welford Road crowd is on their feet for both teams after this one, despite the away side going home with the win to their name.
A tough, tight battle of two hungry and eager sides ends with just a four-point difference to begin the season for both Tigers and Bath in style.
These clashes between the historic rivals sure do impress, no matter when or where they're played!
FULL TIME AT WELFORD ROAD
Despite a chance in the dying stages through a third successive sin-binning for Bath, Tigers can't claw back the lead and the visiting Bath Rugby walk away from Welford Road with the Premiership points after a 27-23 victory in a hard fought affair.
BANAHAN SIN BINNED
A third yellow for Bath as Banahan is sent for an early shower for professional foul.
CONVERSION - TIGERS
George Ford adds the extras from the touchline and closes the gap to four.
Tigers trail 23-27 with the clock ticking down quickly now.
TRY - TIGERS
Jonny May gets his second of the afternoon after a persistent effort from the home side around the ruck, following the sin-binning for Bath.
GARVEY SIN BINNED
A second yellow card for the visitors as the skipper Matt Garvey is sent for an early shower for yet again more high tackles from Bath.
OUT ON THE FULL
Bath send the re-start out on the full and Tigers have an opportunity to close the gap again.
George Ford can't add the extras and the scores remain the same, Tigers 16 - Bath 27 after 73 minutes.
TRY - TIGERS
Jonny May crosses for his first of the new Premiership season at Welford Road after an exciting exchange between both teams sees the ball move from end to end as quick as May moves across grass himself.
Welford Road enjoyed that one as Tigers close the gap to 11, trailing 16-27 with less than 10 remaining.
END TO END STUFF AT WELFORD ROAD
The ball is certainly doing its own work today as it shifts from side to side and end to end.
FOTUALI'I SIN BINNED
After only recently joining the match from the bench, Bath's replacement scrumhalf has been sent to the sin bin for the fourth successive high shot.
TIGERS SO CLOSE, BUT...
The home side certainly moving the ball in an attempt to crack this Bath defence but, can't find the hole anywhere and a dropped ball sees Anthony Watson toe ahead only to knock-on in an attempted grab while chasing.
Tigers back in possession, feeding the scrum just outside their own 22.
CLEARED BY BATH
The visitors don't mess around near their own line and clear the ball quickly.
Tigers now on the attack just inside the Bath side of halfway.
TIGERS MARCHED UP FIELD
Flashy footwork from Tigers in the midfield and a penalty to follow their way helps the home side up field.
However, Bath wrap up the ball and will feed the scrum from 5 out in their own half.
PENALTY - BATH
Two successive advantages used by Bath after Genge was ruled to have dropped to his knee at the scrum, handing the visitors an opportunity to extend their lead.
Priestland converts the extras and Tigers trail 11-27 after 64.
BATH - REPLACEMENT
Francois Louw comes from the field, replaced by Paul Grant.
VISITORS PEPPERING THE LINE
Bath continue to look and play it tight this half, as the hourmark ticks over, and the Tigers defence are called in to action. They hold tight, for now, and the visiting side will feed the scrum just 5 out.
PENALTY - TIGERS
George Ford makes no mistake from in front and the Tigers claw back some points to now trail by thirteen, 11-24 at Welford Road after nearly an hour.
YOUNGS IS OFF!
Ben Youngs finds space around the ruck and the scrumhalf is away
..a lazy attempt at the tackle from Anthony Watson is high and after playing the advantage, Tigers come back for the penalty in front of the uprights 22 out.
PENALTY - BATH
Rhys Priestland makes no mistake and Bath extend their lead to 24-8 over Tigers after 56 minutes.
After just joining the action, Dan Cole is penalised at the scrum and Bath will attempt to extend the lead by three points from right in front.
As the Welford Road clock ticks over to just 25 minutes remaining, the scores are unchanged from half time with Bath leading 21-8.
RE-SET TWICE NOW
Two re-sets so far at this scrum attempt just 5 out from the Tigers line.
REPLACEMENTS - BATH
Two changes from the visiting side with Jack Walker and Nick Auterac entering the game for Tom Dunn and Ben Obano respectively, in the front row.
HELD UP AT THE LINE
Brilliant effort from Tigers on their own try-line as they take a pick 'n go onslaught from Bath, who can't find the chalk and are held up.
TIGERS PENALISED IN ATTACK
Dom Barrow is penalised at the ruck while the home side are attacking and Bath find touch just 5 out from the Tigers line.
REPLACEMENTS - TIGERS
Two changes for Tigers as Tom Youngs is replaced by Harry Thacker and Logo Mulipola by Dan Cole.
FORD SENDS IT LONG
A strong clearance from George Ford from the scrum forces Bath to respond in kind, handing the home side the lineout on the Bath 40.
REPLACEMENT - BATH
Kane Palma-Newport is replaced in the front row by Anthony Perenise for Bath.
TIGERS HURTING THEMSELVES
After a back and forth between sides and sidelines, another penalty is blown the way of Bath as Tigers discipline hurts them again and hands the visiting side much needed yardage up field.
They find touch on the Tigers 22 but another wonky throw from Tom Dunn means it won't matter much and the home side will feed the scrum.
KITCH PENALISED IN THE AIR
Bath helped up field once again as Graham Kitchener is ruled to have taken his opposing jumper in the air.
TIGERS SCRUM TOO STRONG
A penalty goes the way of the home side as they push Bath off the ball and force the piggy back up field.
A brilliant piece of experienced play from Ben Youngs in the phases to follow sees the England No.9 grubber it 40m to roll out just 5 out from the Bath line.
TAKEN IN THE AIR
Nick Malouf is penalised following a Ben Youngs box kick, for taking his opposing wing in the air in the tackle.
Bath find touch through the penalty inside the Tigers 22 but can't convert from the first phase and knock on.
Tigers scrum on their own 22.
HOSTS TRAIL AT HALF TIME
Leicester Tigers head in to the changing rooms trailing Bath by thirteen points, 21-8 at Welford Road following a back and forth opening forty.
SECOND HALF KICK'S OFF
The second chapter is underway here at Welford Road as George Ford sends it deep in to Bath territory.
VISITORS FINISHING FIRST HALF STRONG
Despite a knock on from Matt Banahan handing the home side a scrum just short of halfway, Bath's ruck defence proves too good again today and they've forced a turnover.
They send it in to touch from the penalty and have an attacking chance from inside 30.
CONVERSION - BATH
Successful attempt from Rhys Priestland once again and Bath now lead 21-8 after 37 minutes here at Welford Road.
TRY - BATH
That headline is correct. Bath speedsters Semesa Rokoduguni takes an intercept from a George Ford pass to the left edge of Tigers and races his way 85m to cross for the visitors third of the afternoon.
ENERGISED EFFORTS FROM BOTH SIDES
An exciting back and forth of attacking play from the two teams, predominantly in the midfield, ends as Telusa Veainu is taken with a high tackle.
George Ford finds the touchline just 18 out from Bath's line.
CONVERSION - BATH
Rhys Priestland adds the extras from in front and the visitors have the lead for the first time this afternoon.
TRY - BATH
Max Clark crosses for his - and Bath's - second of the afternoon after the piggy back up field from ill-discipline from the home side sees them pick 'n go their way in to position for the centre to crash over under the sticks.
BATH CLOSING IN
Telusa Veainu is away in space but called back after attempts at midfield movement from Bath, with the penalty blown the way of the visiting team.
They find touch 5 out from the Tigers try line.
CONVERSION - BATH
Rhys Priestland adds the extra points and closes Tigers gap to just one point, 8-7 after nearly half an hour at Welford Road.
TRY - BATH
The visiting side have hit back in a matter of minutes here at Welford Road after a back and forth between the two teams ended up with Bath wing Matt Banahan finding space down the left wing, before passing inside for centre Max Clark to cross.
The scoreboard remains unchanged as Ford's kick is waved away, keeping the Tigers lead at just 8-0 after 25 minutes.
TRY - TIGERS!
Manu Tuilagi has the first five-pointer of the new season!
Some quick-thinking from Ben Youngs at the ruck and the ball is moved to the wing, following a strong lead up from the home side, and the outside centre is in the perfect place in support to cross and send Welford Road crazy!
Tigers defence is hungry today and their persistence pays off as the visitors move side to side but to no avail, knocking on at halfway and handing the scrum feed to Tigers.
Ben Youngs doesn't muck around at the first ruck following points and sends a deep box kick back in to Bath's half, handing the visitors the ball from the midfield.
PENALTY - TIGERS
George Ford adds the three with absolute perfection and the new signing is on the board, as well as the Tigers, for the first time today and this season.
3-0 to Tigers after the opening quarter.
MAKE IT A FULL, THANKS!
A full-arm penalty now awarded the Tigers way after being warned by Referee Luke Pearce.
Tom Youngs and George Ford confer and they'll look to add the first points of the game, choosing to have an attempt at goal from 22 out and 15 in from the right-hand touch line.
RE-SET THE SCRUM
A short-arm penalty is blown the way of the home side ... who opt to pack down again for a second attempt at the Bath scrum 8 out.
WELL, HERE WE GO!
A quick-tap from Tigers after receiving a second penalty in front of the uprights and Welford Road is on its feet!
An attacking mindset is on show from the home side today, as they look to bash their way through the Bath defensive line.
The ball moves from side to side and a half chance from crowd-favourite Manu Tuilagi is shut down by a last-ditch effort in defence from the visitors.
Knock on however in the tackle and it's a Tigers scrum just 8 out from the try line.
Scores are amazingly still 0-0.
SIONE WITH THE SHOT
The ball is sent deep from the ruck from Ben Youngs and a strong chase and tackle from Jonny May sees Bath on the back foot.
A strong tackle from Sione Kalamafoni, followed in to the ruck by Veainu and he's gained a penalty.
Ford sends it deep in to touch for Tigers to start their attack inside the visitors 22.
BETTER FROM BATH
Controlled play from the visiting side after regaining possession from the lineout and this clearance adds much more value, rolling in to touch inside the Tigers 22.
Efforts are undone however following the lineout, as captain Matt Garvey is penalised for entering the maul from the side following the mid-air contest.
TOO LONG FROM BANAHAN
After a back and forth from both sides, including some aggressive and entertaining attack from Ellis Genge in counter, a George Ford clearance proves difficult to control for Matt Banahan.
He manages to maintain possession but his clearance is too deep and out on the full.
BATH BOXED IN .. AND OUT
The visitors are forced to clear their own line after struggling to find a hole in attacking the Tigers line inside their own 22 and Chris Cook clears the ball from the base of the ruck with a box kick.
Tom Youngs will feed the lineout from 8 inside the Bath side of halfway.
TIGERS MOVING IT ON
It's an attacking mentality from both teams today as now the Tigers go wide, quickly, from the lineout and it ends up with Veainu.
Some fancy feet but the ball can't keep up with his terrifying toes and he's lost possession in an attempt to pass inside, handing Bath a scrum on their own 22.
The visiting side are certainly looking to play expansive rugby here at Welford Road, again looking to move the ball quickly and finding half chances in the Tigers line.
However sloppy handling and an accidental offside gives the Tigers a penalty for George Ford to clear and find touch just inside halfway.
A second penalty follows at the lineout and Ford sends it deeper, just 30 out from the Bath line.
SECOND SCRUM TO BATH
Ben Youngs sends it back deep to Bath and they again opt to play it in the wide channels, however a knock-on from Malouf in defending their attack ceases the play.
Scrum to the visitors 10 inside the Tigers half.
TIGERS ON THE PROWL
The home side look to try their hand early from the base of the scrum, sending it wide for Veainu before snapping back through the big men midfield.
A half-break from Toomua presents an opportunity but his last pass for Malouf goes to ground and it's a turnover for Bath to kick clear.
SIDE TO SIDE TO START
A deep kick from the visitors to get this one going is sent back their way with a solid box kick from Ben Youngs at the first ruck.
Bath look to play it side to side inside the Tigers half but a dropped ball 25 out hands the home side the first scrum feed of the match.
SEASON 2017/18 UNDERWAY!
The game is on. Bath have kicked off at Welford Road, running towards the Mattioli Woods Stand.
TEAMS ARRIVE ON TO WELFORD ROAD
Feet stamping, hands clapping ... it must be game time!
Here come the Leicester Tigers led by their Captain Tom Youngs.
CONFIRMED - BATH TO KICK-OFF
The visitors will be kicking off and running towards the Mattioli Woods Stand here at Welford Road in this one. #LEIvBAT
THINGS ARE WARMING UP
The two sides are out in the middle of a very lush-looking Welford Road pitch, warming up for the AVIVA Premiership season opening clash.
BATH TEAM CONFIRMED
15-Anthony Watson, 14-Semesa Rokoduguni, 13-Jonathan Joseph, 12-Max Clark, 11-Matt Banahan, 10-Rhys Priestland, 9-Chris Cook
1-Ben Obano, 2-Tom Dunn, 3-Kane Palma-Newport, 4-Luke Charteris, 5-Elliott Stooke, 6-Matt Garvey (c), 7-Francois Louw, 8-Taulupe Faletau
16-Jack Walker, 17-Nick Auterac, 18-Anthony Perenise, 19-James Phillips, 20-Paul Grant, 21-Kahn Fotuali'i, 22-Freddie Burns, 23-Ben Tapuai
TIGERS TEAM CONFIRMED
15-Telusa Veainu, 14-Nick Malouf, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Matt Toomua, 11-Jonny May, 10-George Ford, 9-Ben Youngs
1-Ellis Genge, 2-Tom Youngs (c), 3-Logovi'i Mulipola, 4-Dom Barrow, 5-Graham Kitchener, 6-Dominic Ryan, 7-Brendon O'Connor, 8-Sione Kalamafoni
16-Harry Thacker, 17-Greg Bateman, 18-Dan Cole, 19-Mike Williams, 20-Luke Hamilton, 21-Sam Harrison, 22-Joe Ford, 23-Mathew Tait
WELCOME TO WELFORD ROAD
GATES ARE OPEN
The Welford Road turnstiles have been opened for the first time in the 2017/18 AVIVA Premiership season. Kick off less than 90 minutes away now.. bring it on!