3 tries, 3 red cards, 2 more yellow cards and 4 penalties from George Ford secured the win for Tigers 17-12, with all the action coming in the second half. First Francois Louw was sent off for an ugly off the ball elbow to Geordan Murphy’s face, then Matt Banahan and Brett Deacon saw red as Banahan’s vicious tackle knocked Anthony Allen out for 6 minutes and Deacon reacted by punching the Bath man in the face.
It all started with Geordan Murphy’s introduction from the bench. Clearly riled up from his snub by the coaching staff Murphy was a man with a point to prove. He upped the ante and the physicality immediately with an aggressive clear out of Stuart Hooper, then in the next ruck he tangled with Louw. This was right in front of us on the terrace and it didn’t look good. Murphy was pinned on his back with Louw on top. Unprovoked he elbowed Murphy clean on the nose and the linesman needed no prompting to recommend a red. He got a lot anyway from the terrace that was keen to make sure he didn’t bottle it.
From the resultant penalty Tigers went for the corner and scored a peach of a try. Sweeping right to left Niall Morris entered the line and exploited the extra space to draw in the on rushing defence leaving Adam Thompstone with an easy finish for his 5th try in 6 matches.
The action didn’t stop there; Bath kicked off long to Anthony Allen who dummied the kick before breaking out of the 22. On halfway he kicked ahead and was taken out by Michael Classens, the referee having no hesitation to give the penalty which Ford duly converted.
Still the incidents kept coming thick and fast; at the next kick off Bath again went long to Anthony Allen who again stepped and beat Matt Banahan all ends up. Banahan had earlier drawn blood from illegal challenges on Matt Tait and Julian Salvi so “he isn’t that sort of player” doesn’t wash as an excuse. Yes he is that kind of dirty player. The red card was completely deserved as after Allen had stepped him Banahan wildly swung his arm at him and connected just under the chin. He collapsed immediately and didn’t move for 6 minutes whilst on the pitch.
Brett Deacon reacted as any normal person would to that vicious assault by punching Banahan in the face. A punch in the face is a fair red card providing we have some consistency. Unfortunately that was sadly lacking when Lee Mears and then Stephen Donald connected with punches to the face. At least Donald got a yellow though to reduce Bath to 12 men.
The first half was a cracker too despite it ending 5-0 to Bath. It was the best 0 we’ve ever had. We were all over them for long periods of the game and had two tries ruled out by the referee. The first would have been a contender for try of the season. Marcos Ayerza, so much better in green than sky blue, was the recipient of a one-two with Micky Young on the 22 that unlocked the Bath defence. Allen then dummied to draw the defence out of line before releasing Matt Smith down the wing. They marched Bath to their line before going from one corner to the other, the TMO harshly ruling that Kitchener’s pass was forward. The second was ruled out for a knock on from Julian Salvi, I couldn’t see it and the TV didn’t pick it up but the referee was practically on top of him so was probably right.
Bath took their two tries well, the first saw Donald stroll in from the 22 as Matt Tait exhibited his turnstile defence yet again and Brett Deacon was out paced. The second was Banahan using all of his strength to stay upright in the tackle and using his long arms to find Tom Biggs who raced in for the try.
Tigers will be pleased with their win that pushed them back into the top 4 before the break for European action. With the All Black conquering heroes to come back too we are sitting pretty for the second half of the season and these points gained are vital in the race for a home semi final. This game will be remembered for the red cards, the most in the match and the only time in league history a side have received two, and it is vital to remember that all were correctly awarded. Rugby descends into violent anarchy if the ref keeps his cards in his pocket, so more red cards in matches are to be applauded even if the action that prompts them are not.