Bath kept their Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign on track as a penalty try at the death snatched a 33-31 victory over Leicester at the Rec.
The home side’s forwards ground a youthful but lively Tigers side into submission in front of a near full-house, with fly-half Freddie Burns scoring a try and kicking two conversions and four penalties against his old club.
Bath’s other try scorer was England squad member Zach Mercer, while Leicester ran in four from Jonah Holmes, Adam Thompstone and Ben White.
Tigers began purposefully and fly-half Tom Hardwick opened the scoring with a simple penalty after 10 minutes following a kick and chase by pacey full-back, Harry Simmons.
The home side might have had a weight advantage at the set-piece but Burns had a grubber kick blocked by Harry Thacker in the 17th minute. Right wing Holmes followed up his skipper’s kick-ahead and picked up on the run to score.
Hardwick added the conversion but Bath kept bludgeoning away and Burns kicked two penalties before the half-hour mark.
Left wing Thompstone joined his forwards to claim a try from a catch and drive and Hardwick stepped up again to land the conversion from touch to put his side 17-6 ahead.
Fortunately for Bath, there was just enough time for Burns to respond with a deft chip over a throng of players at the other end, collecting the ball unchallenged to touch down and then adding the conversion.
With Tom Homer looking sharp from full-back in his first start of the season and young Josh Bayliss impressive on the flank, Bath forced a penalty shortly after the restart for Burns to cut the deficit to one point.
Back came Leicester with a second smartly-taken try for Holmes, created by Jordan Olowofela’s footwork. Hardwick converted but Burns replied with his fourth penalty to make it 19-24.
When Matt Banahan’s pass was intercepted by Fred Tuilagi, Leicester ramped up the pressure and scrum-half White finished off at the posts with Hardwick converting.
But the home scrum still packed a punch and replacement Mercer pounced on a ball spilled by Tuilagi to keep Bath in touch at 26-31 after Burns’ conversion.
Four penalties conceded in quick succession by Tigers led inevitably to a yellow card for replacement lock Joe Maksymiw as Bath piled on the pressure at line-out and scrum. Three reset scrums and then a collapse on the retreat finally earned the penalty try Bath needed with less than two minutes to spare.