Bath Rugby lose out in Biarritz

Despite a late rally and three second half tries, Biarritz Olympique proved too strong on home ground for Bath Rugby, as they secured a bonus point 26-19 victory that saw them top Pool 4 to qualify for the quarter finals.

On a sunny but cold day, Bath started brightly, stealing a lineout early on to secure possession. A superbly judged clearance kick from Butch James saw the ball trickle towards the try line, with only a Biarritz prop in defence. He kicked the ball back into play, and Bath earned an early penalty. Olly Barkley stepped up for the difficult kick, but the ball rebounded off the outside post.

A period of good attacking play by Bath followed in the 22, with Michael Claassens finding James open, who chipped ahead for Tom Biggs to chase onto, only for the winger to be just beaten to position by the covering Biarritz defence.

Despite the hard work of the visitors it was the home side who got the first points on the board 10 minutes into the game. Dimitri Yachvili charged down a Bath kick in the 22, and sprinted away to score between the posts. He converted his own try, giving the Basque side a 7-0 lead.

Biarritz doubled their lead eight minutes later, as former Bath wing, Iain Balshaw, touched down for the first of his two tries. The ball was passed quickly through the hands of the backline from the back of a scrum, and an offload found Balshaw on the wing. He sprinted away from the chasing Bath defenders and touched down near the posts to give Yachvili an easy conversion, which he duly scored. 14-0

Biarritz broke through to score again about 10 minutes later, only for the ball to have been judged knocked forward and the try was disallowed. Bath were under pressure following a period of scrums within 5m of the tryline and, after a series of scrum infringements, Duncan Bell saw yellow just after the half hour mark. Tom Biggs made way for David Flatman, and the Bath pack turned the next scrum on its head, allowing Barkley to clear the lines.

The first half ended with some strong pressure from Bath, however the visitors were unable to convert pressure into points, and they went into the break 14-0 down.

Just minutes into the second half, Man of the Match Balshaw added more points to Biarrtiz's tally with his second try of the match. He broke away from the tackle at short range and ran across the pitch to score between the posts. Yachvili again converted, taking the scoreline to 21-0.

Minutes later however, Bath fought back. A good build up saw Bath attacking hard in the danger zone, and Stuart Hooper powered through to break the tackle and score from short range. 21-5.

Bath built up good momentum following their first try, and were steadily making their way up the pitch when the ball found prop, David Wilson, who sprinted up the pitch, bouncing through tackles to gain valuable ground. However , the move broke down as the ball was lost just a phase later.

Biarrtiz weren't to be easily tamed however, and just after 60 minutes winger Ngwenya snuck over in the corner for the French side's fourth try, following some good build up play across the pitch. In a rare off-moment with the boot, Yachvili missed the conversion, so the score was only worth five. 26-5.

Replacement Jack Cuthbert managed to prevent Ngwenya adding to his try tally moments later, doing just enough to make sure the winger was in touch before he went over the line.

Going into the last ten minutes of the match, Bath were keeping possession of the ball well, with some tight pick and go's seeing the move from one end of the pitch to the other. Quick hands kept the ball alive, and Biggs stepped the defence to go over from close in. Replacement Sam Vesty converted. 26-12.

With time up on the clock, and Bath in possession there was time for one last shot at goal. Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe took a quick tap penalty and the ball was crashed up the pitch, allowing Biggs to cross for his second. Vesty again converted, gaining Bath a losing bonus point as the referee blew for the end of the game. Final score 26-19.

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