Steve Borthwick rejected the chance to coach the Lions this summer and, on this evidence, still has plenty to do to revive another big beast — the Tigers throwing away their first win here for a decade.
It came down to one piece of stupidity. With Leicester 20-14 up and five minutes left Bath were bundled into touch, their hopes fading fast.
Bath’s Zach Mercer — who was again outstanding — squared up to Joe Heyes, annoyed his side were going to lose, and then South African No 8 Jasper Wiese idiotically pulled his opposite number by the shirt, yanking him aside with no provocation.
Jasper Wiese gave away a penalty in the last minute to cost Leicester victory over Bath
Bath scrum half Ben Spencer hit a wide conversion in the last minute to win it for the home side
Referee Luke Pearce gave a penalty instead of a Leicester lineout. Three further penalties and a panic later, Will Muir leapt into the left-hand corner and Ben Spencer hit the wide conversion for Bath’s win.
Borthwick, who chose to stay to rebuild Leicester instead of joining Warren Gatland’s Lions coaching ticket in South Africa, said: ‘Given the position we were in, I’m disappointed with the final result. We’ve got a lot to do — this is a club who had a habit of losing.’
Leicester were all shouty in the first half without too much to show for it — then again, neither did Bath. But Ford kicked three penalties for Tigers.
Bath’s Will Muir in action against Leicester Tigers at the Recreation Ground on Sunday
Bath had a try on the left from Muir, after a fine break from Anthony Watson, which Spencer converted but the scrum-half missed a penalty so they trailed at the break.
As Bath searched for their escape route Leicester went about bricking it up, squeezing the life out of their old rivals while taking their limited chances.
On the right Matias Moroni scored after Watson had fumbled a high Ford kick to allow Tigers in, and then when Ford’s fourth penalty went over Leicester led by 10 with 20 minutes left.
But Miles Reid’s close-range score and Spencer’s conversion tightened the gap so when Wiese lost his head and Bath kept theirs, the hosts stole it at the death to keep their play-off hopes alive.