Five penalties from Toby Flood kicked Leicester into a sixth-successive English Premiership final after an absorbing tussle at Welford Road.
Tigers triumph as Bath cannot contain Flood
Five penalties from Toby Flood kicked defending champions Leicester into a sixth-successive Guinness Premiership final after an absorbing tussle at Welford Road. The scores were tied at 6-6 at half-time after Olly Barkley and Flood had kicked two penalties apiece in a ferocious opening half. But the Tigers took a stranglehold on the game after the interval and Flood added three further penalties to seal his side's passage to Twickenham. There they will meet Saracens, following the London side's win at Northampton earlier in the day, in an occasion that is likely to have a bit of spice after Sarries ended Leicester's proud unbeaten home record - one which had stretched back to September 2008 - just last weekend. The aftermath of that game also saw Saracens rugby director Brendan Venter charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game after allegedly pushing a female Leicester supporter and making inappropriate comments and gestures to spectators at Welford Road. His disciplinary hearing takes place in London on Tuesday. Defeat for Bath means they remain without a win at the home of their bitter rivals since November 2003, with their only two defeats in their last 13 Premiership fixtures coming at Welford Road.
Leicester made three changes from the side beaten last time out with Flood back at fly-half. Lock Louis Deacon and No 8 Jordan Crane also returned. Bath, meanwhile, preferred Australian Matt Carraro to England squad member Shontayne Hape at centre. The game opened at a frantic pace and Bath full-back Nick Abendanon came close to gathering an intelligent Butch James chip, before hooker Lee Mears broke through in a promising opening from Steve Meehan's side. And Barkley, who was named in the England squad for next month's tour of Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday, rewarded that attacking endeavour by claiming the game's first points with a 12th-minute penalty after the Tigers were penalised for hands in the ruck. But the centre was off target with a difficult effort from near the left touchline five minutes later. Bath's growing confidence was exemplified by two very strong nudges at consecutive scrums and from one of them giant wing Matt Banahan was hauled down just short of the line by Scott Hamilton after taking a short pass from James. Barkley added his second penalty at the end of an absorbing opening quarter but Flood got the Tigers on the board with a three-pointer of his own in the 23rd minute. Leicester turned to their forward power with a series of driving mauls close to the Bath line putting the visitors under intense pressure. But a brave defensive effort, led by lock Stuart Hooper, saw the West Countrymen clear their lines. The hosts pulled level when prop Martin Castrogiovanni won a penalty at a scrum and Flood was successful from around the 40-metre mark, although referee Chris White had to call on the video referee to adjudicate after his assistants Paul Dix and Dave Pearson were unable to determine if the ball had gone over the posts. Leicester began the second half in purposeful mood with Flood and Anthony Allen kicking them deep into Bath territory. And they should have taken the lead after a lovely flip pass when in retreat from Flood saw Alesana Tuilagi find some space, but the Samoa cap failed to find fellow winger Scott Hamilton who was free outside him. Another powerful Leicester attack saw Mears flop over the ball to concede a 55th minute penalty, but Flood was off target from wide on the right. But the England fly-half took full advantage when Castrogiovanni again proved too much for David Flatman to handle at a scrum, bisecting the uprights from 45 metres to give Leicester the lead for the first time. And he added to his tally again in the 64th minute with his fourth successful penalty. Further scrum problems followed for the visitors, who were being forced to try and play their way out from deep such was the home side's territorial dominance, and Flood again punished them with eight minutes remaining. Barkley was then off target from a difficult angle with five minutes remaining as Leicester eased through the closing minutes. * PA Sport