Bath Rugby finish eighth in Premiership after final-day loss to Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers 28, Bath Rugby 3
The guts were there and the endeavour was there. But despite delivering one of their most spirited showings of the season, Bath Rugby went down three tries to nil against a Leicester side whose full-blooded muscularity eventually gave them the spoils.
A titanic defensive effort in the first half meant Bath trailed just 3-0 at the break in front of a packed Welford Road, but the Tigers pack ramped up the pressure and squeezed the life out of the visitors as the game wore on.
Ultimately, it was a brutal second-half performance by the Leicester scrum and a display of attacking guile by replacement fly half Billy Twelvetrees that gave the Tigers the spoils.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Wednesday, May 22 2013
Twelvetrees kicked two penalties and two conversions, and set up two of the Tigers' three second-half tries.
Bath's points came from a solitary Olly Barkley penalty.
With London Irish demolishing Gloucester, Bath's loss means they finish eighth in the Aviva Premiership.
A crumb of comfort for Bath will be that they denied Leicester a winning bonus point – the only side to have done so in the Tigers' past seven matches.
Departing Bath head coach Sir Ian McGeechan was less than impressed by the way the match was officiated by referee Dean Richards and his assistants.
"The officials didn't help and you need them to be on their game when you're at Welford Road," said McGeechan.
"At the scrum, at the breakdown – there were mixed messages coming over the mic. The officials have got to be on their game, just as we have to be."
The scoreline may suggest that Bath were on the end of a thrashing. But the visitors played much of the rugby in the first 20 minutes, while the remainder of the period was distinguished by superb, organised defending by Bath, with flankers Carl Fearns and Josh Ovens to the fore.
"The team was up for it, there's no doubt about," said McGeechan. "There was a lot of spirit and energy, but in the second half we made too many unforced mistakes."
This wasn't vintage Leicester – chances went begging and there was the odd moment of madness, most notably when Alesana Tuilagi threw a quick lineout almost straight into Matt Banahan's path – but they will enter the play-offs as the odds-on favourites to win another Premiership.
"It's job done this afternoon," said director of rugby Richard Cockerill. "We were a bit sloppy in the first half. Hopefully we can save our performances until it really matters – next weekend."
Toby Flood opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a penalty but it was to be another 42 minutes until the game's next score when Twelvetrees, on for the injured Flood, slotted a goal after Michael Claassens strayed offside.
Barkley pulled three points back from the tee, but Twelvetrees then showed his class to step outside opposite number Stephen Donald and release wing Horacio Agulla. He was dragged down but the in-form Anthony Allen was there to burrow over for a deserved try.
Twelvetrees added the conversion and another penalty before the Leicester pack took centre stage, extracting a penalty try with a series of one-way shoves.
Leicester's coup de grace was delivered in the penultimate minute, Agulla dotting down after more fine distribution by Twelvetrees.
Bath first-team coach Brad Davis said: "Eventually Leicester's intensity did its damage and in last 20 minutes we were just hanging in there. That was a full-blooded Leicester-Bath match."
Leicester Tigers: Murphy (c), Agulla, M Tuilagi, Allen, A Tuilagi, Flood, B Youngs; Ayerza, Chuter, Castrogiovanni, Green, Parling, Mafi, Salvi, Waldrom
Replacements: T Youngs, Mulipola, Cole, Newby, Pienaar, Harrison, Twelvetrees, Hamilton
Bath Rugby: Abendanon, Woodburn, Banahan, Barkley, Biggs, Donald, Claassens; Catt, Mears (c), Wilson, Attwood, Skirving, Ovens, Fearns, Taylor
Replacements: Batty, Beech, Bell, Spencer, Mercer, McMillan, Vesty, Eastmond
Referee: Dean Richards