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Leicester Tigers survive major scare to edge Bath

By PA
Leicester Tigers' Richard Wigglesworth celebrates scoring his sides second try with Leicester Tigers' Tommy Reffell (Photo by Bob Bradford - CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Leaders Leicester survived a major scare to record their first Gallagher Premiership victory at Bath for 11 years as Steve Borthwick’s team triumphed 24-20.

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The Tigers had lost nine league games in a row at the Recreation Ground and they needed to dig deep before posting a 14th Premiership win from 16 starts this season.

Leicester trailed by six points at half-time against the Premiership’s bottom club, who were good value for their lead through tries from wing Will Muir, centre Max Ojomoh and back-row forward Josh Bayliss.

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Fly-half Orlando Bailey added a penalty and conversion, but the Tigers were not to be denied as number eight Jasper Wiese, scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth and fly-half Freddie Burns claimed touchdowns.

Burns also kicked three conversions, while full-back Bryce Hegarty booted a second-half penalty, with Leicester bossing the final quarter to deny Bath.

There was good news for Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, meanwhile, with Bath back-row forward Taulupe Faletau playing the whole game in just his second appearance since suffering an ankle injury seven months ago, and a Six Nations squad call-up seems likely ahead of next Saturday’s clash against England.

Danny Cipriani featured in Bath’s matchday 23 for the first time since early December after completing return-to-play protocols following concussion, while full-back Tom De Glanville also returned and wing Will Butt made only a second Premiership start.

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Leicester had five England players absent due to Six Nations duty – Freddie Steward, George Ford, Ben Youngs, Ellis Genge and Ollie Chessum – with Wigglesworth captaining the team.

The Tigers displayed all the confidence of a team at the Premiership summit and they surged ahead after just six minutes.

Juggernaut wing Nemani Nadolo made a trademark burst that scattered Bath defenders and Wiese applied a short-range finish before Burns’ conversion made it 7-0.

It was an immediate setback for Bath, who were 47 points behind Leicester before kick-off, yet they responded impressively when scrum-half Ben Spencer’s accurately-placed kick allowed Muir to cross out wide.

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Leicester, though, were in ruthless mood and centre Dan Kelly cut Bath’s defence open from their next attack, enabling Wigglesworth to mark his 311th Premiership appearance by touching down between the posts, and Burns converted.

Muir did not help Bath’s cause when he was yellow-carded by referee Karl Dickson for a dangerous aerial challenge on Tigers full-back Bryce Hegarty, although Bailey then cut the arrears to six points through a 30-metre penalty.

Bath now had the bit between their teeth and they conjured a second try 11 minutes before half-time when centre Jonathan Joseph kicked into space before his midfield partner Ojomoh finished off.

It was an ideal way for Ojomoh to celebrate signing a two-year contract extension earlier this week, but Bath were not finished and impressive work by De Glanville, allied to a superb Bayliss finish, put the home side 20-14 ahead.

Bayliss had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes, replacing number eight Nathan Hughes, who went off for a head injury assessment, yet Bath had turned the game on its head.

Leicester appeared shell-shocked by their hosts’ scoring burst and Bath preserved a deserved advantage at the interval.

The Tigers laid siege to Bath’s 22 after the break and they claimed a third try following relentless scrum pressure as space opened up, allowing Burns a simple run-in, before he added the conversion.

Hegarty then kicked a short-range penalty and it appeared as though Leicester head weathered the storm.

Bath took play back into the Tigers’ half, yet Leicester had an edge up-front and Cipriani was able to make little impact after going as a 65th-minute substitute.

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