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Ford leads Bath to victory

Bath inflicted a first defeat of the new season on Aviva Premiership champions Leicester as former Tigers player George Ford guided Gary Gold's men to a 27-20 victory.

Ford, an ex-world junior player of the year who quit Welford Road this summer, kicked five penalties and converted centre Jonathan Joseph's first-half interception try.

Matt Banahan also scored before the break, giving Bath a commanding 18-point interval advantage after Tigers were briefly reduced to 13 men when front-row forwards Tom Youngs and Logovi'i Mulipola received yellow cards.

Leicester, though, displayed admirable character and they fought back brilliantly through second-half tries by Steve Mafi, Ed Slater and Vereniki Goneva that ultimately secured a losing bonus point.

It ensured a pulsating climax in the 100th-year anniversary fixture between two of English rugby's fiercest rivals, but Bath did enough to make it two wins from two after they triumphed at Newcastle last week.

Leicester, ravaged by an alarming early-season injury count that ruled out star players like Manu Tuilagi, Toby Flood, Ben Youngs, Geoff Parling and Tom Croft, enjoyed second-half dominance.

They scored 12 unanswered points from 21-3 adrift, but Ford - son of Bath first-team coach Mike Ford - calmed Bath's nerves, edging his team over the line despite Goneva's late effort.

There was a stoppage of almost 10 minutes near the end while Bath's replacement hooker Ross Batty required treatment before being carried off after he was felled attempting a tackle. It appeared to be a serious injury.

Play resumed with just over seven minutes remaining on the countdown clock and Bath turned the screw in terms of territory, which gave Ford a match-clinching penalty chance that he gratefully accepted.

Much-travelled Wales international Gavin Henson made his first Premiership start for Bath, while former England centre Anthony Allen captained a Tigers team that included lock Sebastian de Chaves for his full debut, and Mafi replaced flanker Croft, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Worcester last weekend.

David Mele and Ford exchanged penalties during the opening flurries, but Leicester's territorial dominance should have reaped far more and Bath made them pay through an opportunist Joseph touchdown after 21 minutes.

Tigers number 10 Ryan Lamb threw out a speculative long pass just inside Bath's half, but it went straight to Joseph, who sprinted 60 metres unopposed for a try that Ford converted.

The visitors had been floored by a sucker punch, but far worse was to follow during a second quarter when Bath punished woeful Leicester discipline.

Prop Mulipola was yellow-carded for a shoulder charge on Bath lock Dave Attwood, yet despite referee Greg Garner's patience rapidly running out, Tigers did not learn their lesson as hooker Youngs followed Mulipola to the sin-bin.

Ford kicked penalties either side of the transgressions and although Mulipola returned just before half-time, Bath stung them with another try.

Its origins came from a David Wilson tackle on Goneva and when Lamb aimlessly kicked possession away, Bath prospered as Henson sent Banahan clear and the former England wing's 40-metre run saw him brush off three tacklers for an outstanding score.

Ford could not add the extras, but Bath trooped off at half-time with a 21-3 lead, leaving Leicester with a mountain to climb.

Tigers had to strike first in the second period and they duly obliged courtesy of a clever kick into space by Lamb that enabled wing Adam Thompstone to gather and send Mafi across.

Bath could not release Leicester's stranglehold and sustained Tigers pressure was rewarded when Slater dived over wide out and Mele, who had kicked a penalty, landed the touchline conversion.

It made for a tense closing 15 minutes, given how Bath must have thought they were home and dry midway through the contest, and nerves became even more frayed when Goneva rounded off a spell of concerted pressure.

Leicester, though, failed to make any further inroads and Bath will head to Saracens next weekend seeking a third successive victory of their Premiership campaign.

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