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Gallagher Premiership: Bath lose to Leicester and miss chance to go top

A much-changed Bath line-up lose 35-22 to Leicester in front of a 26,000 capacity crowd at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on New Year's Eve; the defeat means Bath end the year in fourth position in the Gallagher Premiership, two points behind leaders Northampton; Leicester are seventh

Bath's Tom de Glanville is tackled by Leicester Tigers' Freddie Steward during a Gallagher Premiership match (PA Images)
Image: Bath's Tom de Glanville is tackled by Leicester's Freddie Steward during the Tigers' Gallagher Premiership win on New Year's Eve

​​​​​​​Bath missed the chance to begin 2024 at the top of the Gallagher Premiership table as they crashed to a convincing 35-22 defeat to Leicester before a sold-out Mattioli Woods Welford Road with an attendance of nearly 26,000.

The defeat was not unexpected as Bath took the surprise decision to rest many of their star players, with Finn Russell, Ollie Lawrence, Beno Obano and regular skipper Ben Spencer among those absent from their line-up.

With their defeat, Bath instead finish the year in fourth position, two points behind leaders Northampton.

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Leicester took full advantage of Bath's understrength side to score five tries. These came from Matt Rogerson, Mike Brown, George Martin and James Cronin, with Handre Pollard adding four conversions. There was also a penalty try awarded to the hosts.

Louis Schreuder and replacements Louie Hennessey and Ewan Richards scored Bath's tries, with Orlando Bailey kicking a penalty and a conversion. Sam Harris also added a conversion.

Bath's Louis Schreuder scores a try during the Gallagher Premiership match against Leicester Tigers (PA Images)
Image: Bath's Louis Schreuder scores a try during their match against Leicester Tigers

It took Bath less than four minutes to take the lead in the contest. On halfway, Pollard's telegraphed inside pass to Freddie Steward was intercepted by Schreuder, who had the pace to hold off the cover on a 50-metre run to the line.

The Tigers drew level when they turned down a kick at goal in favour of an attacking lineout and it paid dividends when Rogerson forced his way over.

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A burst from Bath wing Tom de Glanville saw him threaten the tryline but it was the hosts who scored next when a well-judged pass from Tom Whiteley gave Brown the chance to outflank the defence and score.

On the half-hour, Bath captain GJ van Velze was sin-binned and the home side capitalised immediately when Cronin powered over from short range.

Three minutes later, Leicester scored their bonus-point try when Martin finished off a succession of forward drives. Pollard added his fourth conversion before Bailey responded with a penalty to leave his side trailing 28-10 at the interval.

A minute after the restart, Van Velze returned but it made no difference as, three minutes later, his side conceded a penalty try after collapsing Leicester's lineout drive, with the culprit Jaco Coetzee sent to the sin-bin.

The Tigers did not take advantage of Coetzee's absence, however, with no addition to the scoreboard, and they relaxed further when international forwards Martin, Tommy Reffell, Jasper Wiese and Julian Montoya were all replaced in quick succession.

The game fizzled out as a spectacle but Bath earned some late reward when a break from Max Ojomoh set up a try for Hennessey.

Richards soon added another but Leicester went into the new year happy after recording a double over their opponents, having triumphed earlier in the season at the Rec by a single point.

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