Text first published in the Leicester Tigers matchday programme, March 17 2007
The Leicester Tigers-versus-Bath rivalry has been one of the features of modern rugby. We asked some Tigers favourites – and Stuart Barnes – to share their memories of fixtures between the two clubs over the last 50 years.
Stuart Barnes (Bath 1985-94)
“We had a very good record against Leicester in my time, but I remember losing to Tigers in the Cup when I was Bath captain.
“I had a pair of lucky red socks that I had been wearing on matchdays for two years – I threw them in the weir behind the ground on the way home. It wasn’t the best idea because I remember walking home with my shoes on and no socks, and getting my feet all blistered and battered.”
Martin Johnson (Tigers 1988-2005)
“There are loads of good memories of facing Bath, but two probably stand out.
“One was a cup game there in ’97 when we put 30-odd points on them, and then the game at the end of the 2000 season when we had won the league the week before but everyone was saying Bath were the best team in the country. There was nothing really to play for because we were already champions, but for both teams it was almost like an unofficial Premiership final.
“They were ahead at half-time, I got sin-binned, we brought Daz Garforth off the bench and we pushed them over about three times to win the game.”
Aadel Kardooni (Tigers 1988-1997)
“We beat them down there in the Cup when Stuart Barnes was their captain, but the previous week they had come up here and beaten us, and I had a hand in their try. I broke out of the 22, spilled the ball, they scored and won the game.
“The following week down there Backy pulled out on the morning of the game after damaging his neck. One thing that stands out was us putting Pete Sandford clear on the wing and the ball slipping out of his hands. He was known as The Juggler after that but we could all laugh about it after we’d won.
“An early memory against Bath was going to ground and Deano landing on top of me and getting a real shoeing instead of me, which was a 20-year-old was much appreciated.”
Andy Key (Tigers 1978-92)
“The one that sticks out in my mind was the win down there in the Cup even after Backy had injured his neck in the build-up. We weren’t expected to win against the top side in the country and we had two or three golden opportunities but missed them, then Brian Smith scored one of the funniest tries I’ve ever seen. He hacked the ball on at about 90 miles an hour – it would have flown miles past the tryline but it hit the post and stopped dead. He touched it down and we won.”
Jim Overend (Tigers 1994-97)
“My last game at Welford Road was against Bath, Will Greenwood scored two, I scored one, Guscott scored for them. I was ball-watching in our 22, Guscott went in then out and scored. And they showed it on Rugby Special for about a year afterwards!
“My try was one of TV’s Tries of the Month because it went through so many hands – I just fell over the line at the end! I was interviewed on Sky, the game was just going professional and I said something like we’d celebrate with a few beers afterwards and some of the other lads gave me a real glare.”
Matt Poole (Tigers 1988-98)
“We went down there is appalling conditions for one game and within about five minutes you couldn’t tell which team was which. The only way you knew your team-mates was by their size rather than by their kit.
“It was one of those real old-fashioned mudbaths, the worst conditions I ever played in. They had to empty the bath twice in the changing rooms afterwards, it was so muddy.”
Graham Rowntree (Tigers 1990-2007)
“My first meeting with Bath – and Gareth Chilcott – was in 1992 and they beat us at Welford Road. Chilcott said something like, ‘Fancy some then youngster?’ and I wondered what I’d let myself in for.
“In January ’97 we went down to Bath a week after we’d lost the European Cup Final against Brive. In the warm-up Bath supporters were singing the French national anthem to wind us up. We went out and dusted Bath that day, with Stuart Potter going over in the corner.
“I remember the warm-up before a game and Cocker running over Graham Dawe’s fingers. Dawesy just looked up and smiled, and Cocker knew then he was in for a hard afternoon. And they didn’t disappoint.
“Off the pitch the Bath guys were great, I think there was proper respect between the players. I used to share a room with Dawesy on England duty. He used to like play fights. He’d keep asking if you fancied a play fight and eventually you had to give in.
“When we played down there we’d go to the King William pub for some real scrumpy cider. We went last year and it has been turned into a bistro, with a polished floor and coffee. They still managed to find us some scrumpy though!”
Tim Stimpson (Tigers 1998-2003)
“The first play-off final comes to mind. Leicester were notoriously the forward-orientated, boring, wet-weather team while Bath were the form team on the good pitches. So it was nice to play against them on a dry pitch at Twickenham and run them ragged!
“We also played them at Christmas for three or four years and you had to miss out on second helping of Christmas dinner to get back for training for the game. The sacrifice was worthwhile to beat them down there.”
See the Tigers website on Saturday morning for another collection of memories.