Leicester Tigers scored a last-minute try to seal the extra point in a 40-23 victory over Bath Rugby in Round 8 of the Gallagher Premiership season at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Friday evening.
In the 202nd meeting of these age-old rivals, Tigers ensured they would meet the first break in the league programme – with two weeks of Premiership Cup to come – unbeaten with George Ford scoring one of the tries and landing each of his eight kicks at goal as he became the first player to top 100 Premiership points this season.
Bath travelled on the back of just one defeat in the last six meetings of the teams but without a win in their six games so far this season while Tigers had won seven in a row for the first time in a Premiership season as the only unbeaten team in the league.
Both teams had to make changes in the first week of the international period and Steve Borthwick brought Cyle Brink in for his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury and there were places for Tommy Reffell, Guy Porter and Dolly among the changes following the win at Northampton Saints last weekend.
Bath provided the first try of the evening, with Max Clark supplying the finish but Tigers replied with two tries in a three-minute spell from Nic Dolly and Matt Scott while they also saw the visitors have a score ruled out by TMO checks before reaching the half-time whistle still 20-13 in front.
There was little to separate the teams for much of the second period too until Ford’s try and then finally, in the last action of the evening, when hooker Tom Cowan-Dickie added the important fourth score.
It was Tigers who put the first points of the evening on the board with the game just four minutes old with a Ford penalty following a promising run by Nemani Nadolo but Bath created an opening try for Clark just a couple of minutes later.
The move began with Danny Cipriani spotting some space and after carries from Dunn and Fox, the centre arrived on the left shoulder to dive in and score.
The response came quickly with Tigers winning a penalty in defence and then scoring from a penalty in attack after visiting wing Will Muir was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on. Ford pushed play into the corner and after a steady push towards the tryline, Dolly emerged for his sixth try of the season fresh from his his first taste of England training this week
Bath negotiated the rest of the yellow card period without further damage as the action was contained within the middle third of the field and punctuated by handling errors.
Cipriani drew the scores level with a penalty just past the midway point in the opening half as both teams were forced to make changes. Freddie Burns went off with an injury, to be replaced by Bryce Hegarty making his home debut while Semesa Rokoduguni left for a head injury assessment after a tackle on Nadolo.
A break from Scott wide on the right provided some go-forward again for Tigers and they were rewarded with a penalty for Ford who didn’t let the crackle of fireworks around the city put him off his kick as Tigers led 13-10.
Tom Ellis gave away a penalty in Tigers territory which allowed Ford to clear upfield and it proved costly when the forwards gained more territory and then Kelly combined with Scott in midfield for the Scotland cap to force his way through contact and run in to score. Ford’s conversion gave his team a 10-point lead.
A penalty from Cipriani chipped away at that advantage, though Tommy Reffell would feel it was a harsh call as he got over ball on the floor in defence.
The greasy ball did Jack van Poortvliet no favours as he had to deal with a chip from counterpart Fox which forced him into carrying over his own tryline. Play stayed there as Cyle Brink was yellow-carded in the defensive phases which followed and Tigers also survived appeals for a Bath try when Josh McNally clawed his way over only to be denied for what the referee termed a second movement following a tackle by Dan Cole.
The half ended with Tigers winning a scrum penalty near halfway but, after taking play down the right, ball was lost in midfield and referee Carley brought the half to a close with the hosts seven points in front.
A forward drive direct from kick-off after the teams emerged for the second half provided the chance for Ford to push the lead out to double figures again.
But Bath fought back again, despite losing Clark to injury as he almost broke through near the posts. Set-piece ball gave them possession near the line and McNally this time made sure as he barged over. Cipriani converted to bring it back to 23-20.
The next score was a vital one, with a run of three lineout drives and three penalties against Bath allowing Tigers to increase the pressure and it finally paid off as another drive took play almost within reach of the line and Richard Wigglesworth played to the left where Ford was able to run in and score.
The fly-half added the conversion to make it 30-20 but Bath came back again with another Cipriani penalty to bring the visitors back within scoring range.
Scott almost had a second try which would surely have put Tigers in the diving seat as he latched on to a Nadolo offload but three defenders clattered into the centre and ensured he could not get the ball down beyond the line.
Kini Murimurivalu added some physicality to the backline from the bench with a run on the left but Tigers were penalised at the ruck just as they started to build some attacking momentum.
Reffell’s work over the ball near halfway give Tigers another opportunity to get forward with the clock ticking towards the final 10 minutes and then the physical carrying of replacements Kini Murimurivalu and Nephi Leatigaga put them into position for Ford to kick another three-pointer for a 33-23 advantage.
Murimurivalu’s kick-chase after Hegarty had cleared messy ball near halfway put Bath back on their own line with just two minutes left on the clock and Porter’s chase of more loose ball ensured Cipriani was unable to clear his lines with the time running out.
A big scrum from Tigers provided one last chance for a bonus-point score but not before Bath lost prop Kieran Verden to a yellow card for a late hit on Wigglesworth.
That gave them one final go at the line and it was Cowan-Dickie who was on the ball as the forwards charged for the tryline to claim the bonus-point score and extend the winning run.
WELL DONE TIGERS
Four tries - Dolly, Scott, Ford and Cowan-Dickie - in a 40-23 victory for Tigers in Round 8 of the Gallagher Premiership season. The crowd of nearly 19,000 cheers them all the way in from the pitch. Thank you.
Immaculate kicking record from Ford as he adds the conversion for the final kick of the evening to make it 40-23 and eight wins in a row.
GET IN THERE
Tom Cowan-Dickie is in the driving seat as the forward charge for the line and Tigers have a fourth try.
Ford calls for the kicking tee, 15 metres out, central position. It's his 7th kick and 7th success as he pushes the lead out to 33-23.
Kini and Nephi adding a physical edge to get Tigers forward again and Bath are penalised in the 22...
Into the last 10...
Tigers 30-23 in front, 3-2 on tries but the game is still poised for an interesting closing 10 minutes.
Reffell's defiance over the ball wins an important penalty near halfway and Tigers build some more pressure in the 22. But the whistle goes in Bath favour at a breakdown and the chance has gone.
Cipriani penalty brings Bath back to within a score at 30-23.
Ford back on his feet and back on the ball with a conversion which is greeted with loud cheers around the stadium. Tigers lead 30-20 as we approach the hour mark.
GEORGE FORD in off the left wing to score after the forward drive takes play within reach of the tryline. It takes him past 100 points for the season too.
No try this time for Dolly who has reclaimed his shirt by the way. Referee Carley has a word with the Bath defence though as Tigers have another penalty in the corner.
Topless Nic Dolly gets over the line from a strong lineout drive but the referee is not convinced of the score. We'll come back for a penalty if not.
Almost there, Dolly breaks from the maul but he's just short of the line. Playing with advantage though and we;re in the corner again.
High ball spilled by Cirpiani in his own 22 and ball bounces straight to team-mate McConnachie who is penalised. Tigers go to the corner...
Cipriani adds the conversion from in front of the posts, back to a 3-point game at 23-20.
McNally has his try, similar to the one denied in the first half, pushing over from close range and this time he makes sure of the score.
This is a Tigers put-in at a scrum for the first time this evening. But it doesn't end well with a knock-on and we're back for a Bath set-piece.
Ford is quick to turn and take down Clark as he chases a clever little kick in behind the Tigers defence. The chance is snuffed out but we're back for a Bath penalty on the left. Clark has also limped off. Ojomoh is on at centre. Tigers stand firm at the set-piece and force an error.
Forward drive from the kick-off provides a platform for Ford and he kicks the penalty for a 10-point lead again.
WE GO AGAIN
Teams are back out, with no further changes at half-time. Tigers still a man shirt with Cyle Brink playing out his sin bin time.
TIGERS IN FRONT
Tigers lead 20-13 at the break thanks to tries from Nic Dolly and Matt Scott but it's still all to play for after half-time.
Into the last minute of the half and Tigers have a scrum penalty which Ford pumps down the right-hand side. But ball is spilled after the lineout and that brings the half to a close.
Bath skipper Josh McNally has enough to reach out and dot down from close range but referee Matthew Carley watches the replays and the verdict is a second movement of the legs as he drops to the ground. Tigers penalty on their own line.
Cyle Brink has a 10-minute sin bin after being penalised on his own tryline.
The whistle continues to punctuate play. This time against Tigers in the opposition half.
Cipriani has another penalty from inside the 22 and kicks the points.
Reffell penalised in contact but have to say it looked harsh. We would say that though wouldn't we?
Ford knocks over the conversion from Scott's try in a central position to give Tigers a 10-point lead.
Try time, Dan Kelly and MATT SCOTT combine at centre and the Scot wriggles out of contact to score
Penalty for Bath kicked by Cipriani inside the Tigers 22.
Visitors are back up to full strength with Muir on from his yellow card.
Halfway through the opening period and it's Tigers 10-7 in front. Try from Dolly in reply to a try from Clark.
Both teams forced into a quick change - Hegarty on for his home debut after Burns injury. Looks like a bang in the ribs. Bath have McConnachie on for Rokoduguni after head knock.
Cyle Brink carrying forcefully for Tigers who build momentum but then lose control of the ball in front of the posts. Still 3-3 here.
Cyle Brink back in the thick of the action and Ollie Chessum makes a solid tackle to take Bath into touch on their edge of their own 22.
Ford adds the conversion from the Dolly try to push Tigers 3 points in front.
Penalty into the right corner and the Tigers pack keeps pushing towards the line... it's a TRY for NIC DOLLY. Welcome back Nic.
Deliberate knock-on in the Bath defence as Tigers load the right side. The referee checks the 2-on-1 out wide as Muir is off to the sin bin.
Cipriani adds the conversion of Clark's score for Bath.
Cipriani creates a bit of space, Dunn offloads for scrum-half Fox and he finds Clark in support to score.
Bryce Hegarty kicks his first Tigers points from a 25-metre penalty to level the scores.
Tom Ellis makes a big hit to stop Nemani Nadolo in possession just inside the Bath half. It takes a big hit to stop the big man.
GEORGE FORD puts the first points on the board with a kick from 25 metres.
Sharks have a 3-0 lead with a penalty from Tom Curtis.
Bath get the game started, Tigers are playing towards the Beehive Money Stand. Seems like the crowd are enjoying the weekend already! Lots of noise here. Great pyro to welcome the teams too.
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM
The club hosts its Remembrance Day commemorations ahead of kick-off with the players lined up and distinguished guests joined by representatives of the Royal Anglian Regiment, Leicestershire Regiment, Royal British Legion, Flying Tigers, and Seaforth Highlanders Band.
Sale Sharks: 15 Denny Solomona, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Connor Doherty, 12 Luke James, 11 Arron Reed, 10 Tom Curtis, 9 Gus Warr; 1 Simon McIntyre, 2 Akker van der Merwe (c), 3 Joe Jones, 4 Matt Postlethwaite, 5 Jean-Pierre du Preez, 6 Reuban Birch, 7 Sam Dugdale, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Ewan Murphy, 20 Jack Hill, 21 Nye Thomas, 22 Kieran Wilkinson, 23 Jack Metcalf
No changes to the announced team, as follows:
15 Kini Murimurivalu , 14 Kobus van Wyk , 13 Guy Porter , 12 Juan Pablo Socino , 11 Hosea Saumaki , 10 Bryce Hegarty , 9 Jack van Poortvliet (c) ; 1 Nephi Leatigaga , 2 Tom Cowan-Dickie , 3 Joe Heyes , 4 Ollie Chessum , 5 Scott Hall *, 6 James Whitcombe , 7 Josh Poulett *, 8 Cyle Brink 
Replacements: 16 Archie Vanes *, 17 Dan Richardson *, 18 Will Hurd *, 19 Francois van Wyk , 20 Tomiwa Agbongbon *, 21 Jonny Law , 22 Dan Lancaster *, 23 Jacob Cusick *
* denotes Tigers debut
MATCH PREVIEW | PREMIERSHIP RUGBY CUP
Leicester Tigers launch a new season’s Premiership Rugby Cup against Sale Sharks, the last winners of the trophy, today.
The Sharks lifted the trophy with victory over Harlequins during the 2019/20 season and have held it ever since, with the tournament being shelved last season following the Covid pandemic.
Tigers’ last action in the Cup included wins over Exeter and Bath during that 2019/20 campaign.
Victory over Sale in Round 6 of the Gallagher Premiership last month ended a six-game losing run against this weekend’s opponents in the 101st meeting of the teams.
Brett Deacon is given responsibility for leading the coaching team in the competition and scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet will captain a squad with seven players making their debuts, including summer signings Dan Lancaster and Dan Richardson, and academy graduates Archie Vanes and Jacob Cusick who are all named among the replacements.
Experience in the team is provided by Cyle Brink, Kini Murimurivalu, Juan Pablo Socino, Bryce Hegarty, Nephi Leatigaga and Joe Heyes.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE from Leicester Tigers versus Sale Sharks in Round 1 of the Premiership Rugby Cup at Mattioli Woods Welford Road today. Kick-off is at 3.00pm.
Follow all the action with our Matchday Live coverage on the Tigers App and website at www.leicestertigers.com.
WE ARE LIVE
A cracking atmosphere inside Mattioli Woods Welford Road ahead of kick-off. It's Tigers v Bath. Stay in touch right here.