Tom Bradshaw: Home crowd proved ace in the pack for Tigers
Mystification? Anger? Surprise? Frustration? Bewilderment? All would be understandable reactions to the 16 minutes on Saturday which saw three men sent off and two more sin-binned in what was an afternoon of compelling viewing at Welford Road – if mainly for the wrong reasons.
Given how trigger-happy referee Tim Wigglesworth was during the second half, it's a miracle that Michael Claassens wasn't yellow-carded for a shove on Anthony Allen as the Leicester man chased his own kick. If Claassens had gone too, that would have temporarily reduced Bath to 11 men as a match of high excitement turned into an afternoon of high farce.
But before Mr Wigglesworth is cast as the panto villain, we should take a step back. He may have brandished his cards more frequently than the Fairy Godmother waves her wand, but he did so – except in one case – on the advice of his assistant referees.
In the modern game, linesmen don't just decide who has the throw at any given lineout. They can adjudicate on a host of matters, not least moments of misdemeanour.
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On Saturday, assistant refs Nigel Carrick and Alan Hughes, as well as Wigglesworth, made some big calls. And the interplay between those officials and the crowd succeeded in transforming Welford Road from a rugby venue to a panto theatre.
Bath had four men carded to Leicester's one. With every carding of a visiting player, the next one became likelier. Why? Because cards are not dispensed in a vacuum. They are the result of a host of variables, one of them being what has gone before, another being the attitude – and volume – of the home crowd.
At Welford Road, the natives do not need a second invitation to start providing their view on proceedings. And when one card is brandished, the Leicester 16th man can be guaranteed to start chanting "Off, off, off!" in the direction of the next Bath player to infringe. The crowd is vocal, relentless and determinedly partisan. It takes a brave man to defy its will.
But that is the nature of sport. If you step into the Tigers' lair, you should expect a roar, if not a bite. And the element of barracking and name-calling from the crowd – while it might all seem a bit 'panto' – is actually a central ingredient in Leicester's success.
Bath could, with some justice, claim that they were hard done by on Saturday.
Certainly, they didn't get the rub of the green with some of the decisions. But then the art of the 16th man is not always a just one. At the weekend, the locals at Welford Road treated us to a masterclass in the subject.