7 years ago
20 January 2007, 12:00am
Bath's aims - to win and secure a bonus point to gain a home draw in the quarter-final - were fulfilled in style, against a committed but under-strength Montpellier, as they scored six tries to win the final pool match of the European Challenge Cup 42-17, and top pool four.
The all-important fourth try came just after half-time, and the other results in the competition mean that Bristol should be the visitors in the knock-out stages, on the weekend of 31st March/1st April.
Notwithstanding the loss of shape in the final ten minutes or so, in which the French managed to score twice, Steve Meehan, the Head Coach, was satisfied both with this match and with Bath's performances throughout the competition so far: "The objectives were to win the game and score four tries and both were achieved," he said. "We have topped the pool and won each game, and done enough through the course of the six matches to secure a home quarter."
A double rainbow hung over the Recreation Ground as play kicked off. Bath could not have started better, as Olly Barkley, whose probing kick had set up a lineout five metres from the Montpellier line, danced his way through several tackles to score within four minutes, after Bath had stolen the Frenchmen's ball. The centre converted his own try to give Bath an early 7-0 lead.
However, Montpellier soon cut the deficit when François Trinh-Duc struck a penalty from the 22-metre line when Bath failed to roll away in the tackle. From the restart, Bath's forwards made progress deep into the visitors' half with a maul, and the backs then drew play towards the right wing, attacking with a sense of urgency, and a quick offload by Nick Abendanon found Michael Stephenson, who resumed his try-scoring feats of the previous week against Connacht to slide in at the corner despite the attentions of the covering tackler.
Bath were playing with great confidence, and Montpellier had to defend again when Danny Grewcock's bullocking run took play over halfway, and the move continued with a break by Gareth Delve. Bath were subsequently awarded a penalty but Barkley's attempt hit the right-hand post. Indeed, it was not one-way traffic, and with about 30 minutes on the clock, Montpellier stretched the defence as they went through several phases of attack. But the line held firm and remained disciplined, and turned the ball over when they held it up as Montpellier tried to form a ruck.
A penalty allowed Bath to kick for touch and from the lineout, Chris Malone fed an inside ball to Stephenson, who ran onto it at pace and to stop him required a solid tackle. The move faltered slightly, but when the ball spurted out, an alert Grewcock hacked it on and forced Jacques Boussuge to touch down over the line, thus gaining a five-metre scrum for Bath. The pack controlled the ball as they pushed their opponents backwards, and Nick Walshe dived on the ball to score as it went over the line.
As half-time approached, the French were awarded a penalty and opted to kick to touch. They kept the ball tight but lost the ball through accidental offside, and Bath preserved their 21-3 lead as they went into the break.
Just two minutes into the second half, yet another try for Stephenson in the right-hand corner, converted from the touchline by Barkley, extended the lead, and gave Bath the bonus point they needed to play the quarter-final at home. Shaun Berne, a half-time replacement for Malone, wasted no time in getting involved when, five minutes later, he too crossed the whitewash after a rolling maul.
The pack reinforced its dominance moments later, when Michael Lipman, sheltered by his comrades in a maul, drove over to score on his first match back after four and a half months out with injury.
Both sides made a series of substitutions, and for Montpellier, the introduction of David Aucagne seemed to inject them with life. Bath found themselves on the back foot, and indeed Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu was despatched to the sin-bin as the defenders attempted to keep their line intact. But the French were not to be denied, and chose to run the penalty from close quarters, and David Vaudaine breached the line for his side's first points of the half, a try which Aucagne converted.
Montpellier finished the game strongly, and had the last word after more close-range work by the forwards, though it was full-back Olivier Sarraméa who touched down.
Meehan said afterwards that recent results show that the team is making progress: "Those who saw the first match against Montpellier in October and the second today will understand the improvement that has been made - and we will improve again in the quarter-final."
4: Try Barkley, Conversion Barkley, 7-0
12: Penalty Trinh-Duc, 7-3
14: Try Stephenson, Con Barkley, 14-3
37: Try Walshe, Con Barkley, 21-3
43: Try Stephenson, Con Barkley, 28-3
48: Try Berne, Con Barkley, 35-3
52: Try Lipman, Con Barkley, 42-3
68: Try Vaudaine, Con Aucagne, 42-10
80+1: Try Sarraméa, Con Aucagne, 42-17
BATH: 15. N Abendanon 14. M Stephenson 13. E Fuimaono-Sapolu (sin-bin, 67-78) 12. O Barkley 11. D Bory 10. C Malone (Berne, 41) 9. N Walshe (Williams, 69) 1. D Barnes (Ovens, 62) 2. L Mears (Hawkins, 69) 3. A Jarvis 4. S Borthwick (captain; Faamatuainu, 62) 5. D Grewcock (Fidler, 41) 6. P Short 7. M Lipman (Scaysbrook, 62) 8. G Delve
Replacements: 16. R Hawkins 17. L Ovens 18. R Fidler 19. J Faamatuainu 20. J Scaysbrook 21. A Williams 22. S Berne
MONTPELLIER: 15. O Sarraméa 14. J Boussuge 13. F Charrier 12. M Taele (Crane, 55) 11. S Kuzbik (Alcalde, 68) 10. F Trinh-Duc (Aucagne, 62) 9. J Tomas (captain) 1. P Tolomea 2. N Grelon (Caudullo, 72) 3. C Baïocco (Vaudaine, 62) 4. M Bert (Russell, 59) 5. M Macurdy 6. M Durand (Mathieu, 55) 7. D Chouchan 8. L Picamoles
Replacements: 16. J Caudullo 17. D Vaudaine 18. J Russell 19. C Mathieu 20. H Crane 21. D Aucagne 22. J-M Alcalde
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
By Hilary Weale
Other results for this match are not available.
Lineups for this match are not available.