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Tiny margins between massive rivals

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What a way to kick off a new year at Welford Road, with a crucial league game against Bath. It's not just that the match brings our old mates from the West Country up to open a new year on Tigers turf, but the matches between the two sides in recent years have provided their own sideshow to the club season.

Like the local derby matches against Saints, our encounters with Bath seem to provide their own story, their own agenda, their own drama, no matter where or when they are played, no matter what the prize in terms of league points or cup progress is at stake.

There have been some big wins, some disappointing defeats, but in almost every season you can guarantee that Tigers versus Bath exchanges have been tighter than a prop’s shirt.

Last season the margin of victory over two games was tiny, with Tigers losing 27-26 to a late score at The Rec and winning by five points at home in December.

Seven points separated the teams in the opening meeting this season as Bath came through in a lively head-to-head down at The Rec.

The Tig, just glancing back over recent years, can also remember a try from Harry Ellis which gained a nail-biting draw at home, a single-point win for a young team down at The Rec in an LV= Cup semi-final just a couple of seasons ago and, of course, an enthralling European quarter-final sealed with a late, late try from scrum-half Julian Dupuy. And that’s just for starters.

Bath had their own European moment too with a knockout win in Leicester a few years earlier.

Checking the records, a Tigers home-and-away double in 2008/09 was achieved by a combined total of just six points, and in 2011/12 we lost by a single point away.

The margins are so fine that supporters from both sides can probably look back on each of those games and come up with a convincing ‘if-only incident’ during the 80 minutes which could have swung the outcome in the opposite direction.

Bath go into the game this Sunday in third place in the table, four points ahead of the defending champions. With Bath enjoying a strong start to the season under their new management and Tigers clawing their way back into the play-off frame, this could be another thriller worthy of its predecessors.