Leicester Tigers were beaten 33-31 at Bath Rugby in the second round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup on Friday, losing the lead with just over a minute left on the clock after a valiant performance from a young squad but taking two bonus points in consolation.
A second try of the season for Jonah Holmes and two kicks from Tom Hardwick gave Tigers a 10-0 lead by the 20-minute mark on a crisp and clear evening in the West Country, and Adam Thompstone followed a try in his return to the team a week earlier with another score as the visitors made the most of their opportunities in the opening half.
The lead sat at 11 points before Freddie Burns converted his own try just before half-time, bringing the home side back into the game at 13-17.
A second from Holmes gave Tigers some breathing space again at the start of the second period without being able to pull decisively clear.
Ben White’s first senior try dragged the lead out to 12 points and at last guaranteed one bonus point after a huge effort in defence from the entire team.
But with the work in defence against some big carriers in the Bath line-up taking its toll and penalties mounting up, a penalty try in the 78th minute finally titled the balance in favour of the home side.
Tigers, who launched their cup-winning campaign in 2016/17 with a narrow win at The Rec, kicked off their defence of the title with a 26-24 victory over Gloucester at Welford Road while Bath won at London Irish.
For their 99th visit to The Rec, Harry Thacker led out a team which included nine academy graduates, with another five among the replacements where teenagers Sam Wager and Will Yarnell were gaining a first experience of senior rugby.
Coach Geordan Murphy gave senior debuts to development squad trio Jordan Olowofela, Tom Hardwick and Tommy Reffell, with USA international prop Chris Baumann earning a first start.
Bath named former Tigers fly-half Burns in the No10 jersey, while skipper Matt Garvey made his 100th appearance for the club and led a side which included the experienced Matt Banahan, Tom Homer and Nick Auterac.
After Remembrance Day tributes, it was Bath who to the game under way with Burns kicking towards the clubhouse end and, although they gained some useful possession, Tigers stuck to the task in defence while also making a mess of their opposition’s early lineouts.
The opening points came with a Hardwick penalty after 10 minutes, with Bath judged offside in front of their own posts following a move which started with Thompstone’s kick-chase and allowed Harry Simmons to show his pace down the left.
Holmes then quickly turned defence into attack on the opposite flank, ripping ball from Jack Wilson on the Tigers 22 and, as the visitors quickly opened up the play, Charlie Thacker kicked in behind the Bath defence. Referee Greg Macdonald, though, awarded Bath a penalty just as Tigers looked to peg their hosts back in their own territory and Burns was able to kick up towards halfway.
Bath set up a promising maul as they claimed the lineout ball, but good pressure from the Tigers defence was rewarded with the breakthrough score.
Charlie Thacker charged down a kick from Burns and hacked ahead, with Olowofela and Holmes leading the chase. Holmes read the bounce and dived over for his second try in successive games to stretch the lead to eight points. Hardwick made it double figures with a well-judged conversion from wide on the right.
The Bath pack looked like they would provide an instant response, carrying threateningly, but lost possession just 10 metres from the posts.
The hosts finally got on the scoreboard in the 25th minute, Burns knocking over a simple penalty after Harry Thacker had been whistled at a ruck just 10 metres out from the posts.
Another big defensive effort kept Bath at arm’s length through a series of phases of possession before centre Thacker was penalised for not releasing in a tackle and Burns again called for the tee and cut the gap to four points with his second kick of the evening as the clock passed the half-hour mark.
When Bath were penalised at a ruck near halfway, Hardwick put a confident kick into the corner on the left-hand side to set up a second score and a big confidence-booster for the Tigers pack.
Claiming clean lineout ball, the Tigers forwards got their driving maul set and with Wells steering from the front, it was Thompstone who took the tiller, dropping down over the line for his second try in seven days.
Hardwick’s conversion made it 17-6 entering the final five minutes of the half.
Tigers could have done with holding out until the whistle from referee Greg Macdonald but it was Burns who gave Bath a lifeline with a solo score with slightly more than a minite-and-a-half remaining.
After Hardwick had brought down a break from flanker Josh Bayliss, referee Macdonald was playing a penalty advantage when Burns took ball 15 metres out and managed to chip and catch on the tryline to provide a precious score. He got up to add the conversion and cut the deficit to four points for a second time.
Burns also supplied the opening points of the second half, kicking a penalty from 25 metres as the home side trailed by a point at 16-17.
But a superb second score from Holmes provided another cushion for Tigers just two minutes later, latching on to a break by Olowofela and running on to his offload with precision timing to run in on the left. Hardwick added the extras as Tigers moved eight points in front.
It looked like Bath had responded with a try of their own for Banahan, but the referee confirmed that the ball had been lost forward on the tryline after consultation with the TMO. It was just reward for a huge shift from the Tigers defence who repeatedly made their shots and g0t back to their feet to keep the intact.
Bath, though, won a penalty at the resultant scrum five metres out and Burns, taking the captaincy as Garvey made way, knocked it over to make the score 19-24.
Frantic defence from Tigers kept Bath out through another set of phases on their 22, with Banahan prominent as a ball-carrier.
At their next attack, they looked to set up Banahan again, but Fred Tuilagi made a superb interception and then broke out, kicking upfield to relieve the pressure.
The rewards for his team-mates came with a bonus-point try just after the hour mark, with scrum-half White supporting a break to run in next to the posts, spinning in a tackle from full-back Homer dot down. Hardwick again added the kick as the visitors led 31-19.
Bath continued to use their biggest carriers to test the Tigers defence and threatened with a penalty into the left-hand corner, only to knock-on at the lineout.
But as Tuilagi tried to pick up at the base of the scrum which followed, Bath managed to pressure the ball and Zach Mercer dived over for an opportunist score, just as it looked as if the visitors had weathered that storm. Burns kicked to bring the deficit to less than a score at 26-31 with 13 minutes still to play.
There were some tired bodies still managing to stick to their task, with Olowofela kicking clear when Banahan chipped in behind the Tigers defence
Tuilagi was whistled for a high tackle just inside his own half as Bath threatened once more, and teenage scrum-half Yarnell made a piece of history as the game restarted, replacing White and becoming the first player born since the millennium to make a first-team appearance for the club.
Another penalty, this time for collapsing the maul, kept Tigers hemmed in and referee Macdonald spoke to Wells, who had taken over as captain when Thacker was withdrawn, as a final warning about team discipline. At the set-piece which followed, though, Joe Maksymiw was yellow carded as a maul collapsed five metres out and Tigers were unable then to escape from their own territory.
Bath elected to scrum from the restart, using their extra man to again push Tigers pack, and a series of penalties and resets had Tigers on the ropes in defence of their five-point lead before the referee finally ran in under the posts as another scrum went down.
With no conversion necessary under the new laws, Bath had the lead for the first time with just over a minute left to play and were able to tick down the clock to make it two wins from two in the campaign.
Next Home Match
Thank you to our travelling supporters! Tigers return to Welford Road and the Premiership as we host Sale Sharks in round 8 on Sunday, November 19. See you there!
That's FULL TIME
Bath run out the ball as Tigers try to fight back in the last minute but it finishes 33-31 to the home side.
Tigers fight back at the kick-off as Bath run down the clock but give away a penalty at the ruck and Bath run out the ball as the clock goes passed 80.
PENALTY TRY BATH
The scrum is reset for the third time but the referee awards Bath a penalty try to give Bath the lead at 33-31.
Bath win ANOTHER penalty at the scrum and option to scrum again.
Bath go Again
Bath win another penalty at the scrum and option to scrum again.
A yellow card is shown to Tigers Joe Maksymiw for collapsing the maul and Bath go for the scrum.
Bath win another penalty and Tigers are given a warning as Bath go again to the corner for the lineout.
Bath Go Again
Bath win a penalty at the driving maul and kick to the corner for another lineout.
Bath look to close the gap further and work the phases into Tigers 22 with a strong Tigers defense but a high tackle from Fred Tuilagi gives Bath the penalty and they kick to the corner.
Freddie Burns adds to his and Bath's tally as he slots the conversion to make it 26-31.
Tigers win the scrum but as Fred Tuilagi is tackled as he picks up the ball and it falls loose, Bath jump on the ball and run it in to score.
Knocked-on in the Lineout
Tigers win a scrum when Bath's second row Stooke knocks-on in the lineout as Tigers look to keep out Bath.
Bath win a penalty at the kick-off as Tigers knock-on and run the phases to get up to Tigers 22 and win a penalty, Freddie Burns kicks to the corner for the lineout.
Tom Hardwick adds the conversion for Tigers fourth try of the match to make it 19-31.
Tigers build the phases into Bath's 22 and create a gap with a number of out the back offloads for Ben White to fight the last Bath tackle to find the tryline.
Bath pass out the ball from the lineout but Fred Tuilagi intercepts and after a few steps chips ahead and into Bath's 22.
Bath win a free-kick from the scrum and run it quickly but Adam Thompstone makes a huge tackle on the scrum-half in defense. Tigers are penalised at the ruck and Bath kick for the lineout outside Tigers 22.
Tigers Clear the 22
Tigers clear the ball from the 22 and the resulting phases see Tigers get up to the Bath 22 before the ball is lost forward from Tigers to give Bath the scrum.
Middle of the Field Action
Tigers and Bath run some brilliant rugby but it is all within the Tigers and Bath 22's but Tigers defense forces a Bath knock-on to give Tigers a scrum on our 22.
Freddie Burns steps up to add to Bath's score with a penalty in front the of the posts to make it 19-24.
Bath win a penalty at the scrum but there are few ruffled feathers and handbags before Bath opt to go for the posts.
The TMO rules the ball is lost forward by Bath so Tigers get the scrum on Tigers 5 metre line.
Possible Try for Bath
Bath work the ball over the Tigers tryline but is it held up? The Referee goes to the TMO...
Bath run the Ball
Bath win a turnover after the kick-off and build the phases and work the ball into Tigers 22, getting the ball up to Tigers 5 metre line.
Tom Hardwick adds to his tally and adds to Tigers lead as he adds the conversion to make it 16-24 at the Rec.
Tigers pass the ball out wide from the lineout, working it back and Jordan Olowofela offloads to Jonah Holmes who finds the space and steps the last defenders to score Tigers third try.
Tigers win the ball after Bath are run into touch from the kick-off.
Freddie Burns closes the gap to just a point as he adds another penalty for Bath and makes it 16-17.
Bath on the Charge
Bath run the ball back at Tigers from the kick-off working into Tigers half and winning a penalty outside the Tigers 22 and Bath go for the posts.
We're Back Out
Both teams are back out at the Rec as we kick-off the second-half.
Half-time at The Rec
Bath receive the kick-off and quickly kick the ball into touch to bring the game to half-time with Tigers leading by four points at 13-17.
Freddie Burns adds the conversion to his try to bring the score to 13-17 just before half-time.
Bath create phases of play in Tigers 22 before Freddie Burns chips over Tigers defense, collects the ball and runs in to score.
Bath win a turnover after the kick-off creating phases to work into Tigers 22 and test Tigers defense as they get to the Tigers 5 metre line.
Bath Fight Back
Tigers chip the ball ahead and Bath run it back as Freddie Burns dances a Tigers defender to give Bath the space to run it up into Tigers 22.
Tigers drive the ball from the kick-off as several players break the Bath defense and run the ball back into Bath's half.
Tom Hardwick steps up to extend Tigers lead to 17-6 by adding the conversion.
Tigers create a driving maul from the lineout with Adam Thompstone joining on to help drive the maul over the try-line and dot down the ball for the try.
Tigers win a penalty advantage in the phases of play following the kick-off when Bath played the nine and Tigers kick to touch finding Bath's 5 metre line for the lineout.
Freddie Burns steps up to score Bath's second penalty of the night to close Tigers lead to 6-10.
Phase after Phase
Tigers run out the ball and pass the ball wide but Bath win a penalty just inside Tigers 22, with Bath pointing at the posts.
The ball is chipped back and forth between the teams before Freddie Burns chips ahead to Tigers 5 metre. Harry Simmons recovers the ball and shows his dancing feet to side step the Bath defender and run out to Tigers 22.
Bath win the ball at the lineout and chip ahead but Jonah Holmes takes the ball for Tigers as we create a number of phases.
Tigers use the ball and create a number of phases in Bath's half but a ball is passed loose and straight into touch to give Bath the lineout just inside Tigers half.
Tigers win a penalty
Tigers earn a penalty from the kick-off as Bath knocked-on and Tigers win a scrum.
Freddie Burns takes the penalty for Bath and scores the points to get Bath on the board.
Bath win a free kick at the lineout and run the ball pushing wide but Tigers give away a penalty in Tigers 22, Bath go for the posts.
Tigers win the ball quickly out the scrum and Ben White clear the ball but Bath run the ball back into Tigers 22. Bath are covered by Tigers defense and pushed into touch but the ball is loose and Bath win the lineout.
Bath Hit Back
Bath hit back at Tigers from the kick-off, driving Tigers back to the 5 metre line with several big carries but the ball is knocked-on in a tackle and Tigers win a scrum.
Tom Hardwick steps up and slots the ball over the posts to extend Tigers lead to 10-0.
Bath create a driving maul from the lineout but the ball is passes out wide and a kick is charged down by Charlie Thacker who chips the ball ahead for Jonah Holmes to recover the ball and score in the corner.
Bath win a penalty at the driving maul and kick for the lineout on halfway.
Bath run the ball wide into Tigers half but Jonah Holmes rips the ball in the tackle, offloading to Harry Simmons who kicks clear into Bath's half. Matt Banahan runs in the ball but is again stripped of the ball in the tackle and Tigers kick ahead into touch in Bath's 22.
Bath win the penalty
Tigers knock the ball on in the driving maul from the lineout to give Bath a scrum on their 10 metre line.
Bath win the ball at the kick-off but Tigers win a penalty when Bath hold on to the ball in the ruck and kick for the lineout in Bath's half.
Tom Hardwick scores Tigers first points of the match landing a penalty in front of the posts.
Tigers try to utilise the break from Harry Simmons but drop the ball before the referee blows the whistle for Bath offside. Tigers go for the posts.
End to End
Tigers and Bath are both testing defenses with each team taking kicks into the others 22 before Harry Simmons retains a chip ahead and breaks into the Bath 22.
Bath win their ball out the lineout but the ball goes loose and in tidying up the ball Bath knock-on and Tigers get another scrum.
Bath win a penalty at the scrum and Freddie Burns kicks the ball for the lineout in Tigers half.
Tigers hold Bath up in the driving maul from the lineout and win the ball for a scrum.
Kick for Territory
Tigers release the ball quickly from the scrum and Ben White kicks ahead into touch just outside the Bath 22 line.
Bath run phases of play but Tigers defense forces a knock-on and Tigers get the scrum on the 10 metre line.
Tigers are receiving the ball as the second round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks-off.
and a minutes silence to remember members of the armed forces killed in action.
The Rec stands for Last Post...
And Bath Rugby
Quickly followed by captain Matt Garvey and the players from Bath Rugby.
Here come the Tigers
Tigers are led out by tonight's captain Harry Thacker.
Harry Thacker leads in the teams as the warm-up comes to an end, kick-off shortly.
Tonight's Confirmed Teams
Kick-off this evening will follow a minute's silence in remembrance of members of the armed forces killed in action.
Tigers on Tour
To catch the preview for tonight's match ahead of kick-off just visit the club website at https://www.leicestertigers.com/news/cup-preview-bath-versus-tigers
Tonight's Weather in Bath
Welcome to The Rec
Welcome to our evening Anglo-Welsh fixture against Bath Rugby at The Rec on whatever device, mobile app or website, we're glad to have you with us!