Despite a valiant second-half fightback, Bath Rugby were edged out 20-17 by four-time European Champions Toulouse at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.
Bath withstood the early pressure from the hosts, with the men in black spending much of the first 10 minutes camped inside their own 22. Maxime Medard was closest to unlocking the Bath defence with a clever grubber through to Cheslin Kolbe. However, the full-back’s kick just eluded the winger.
With 13 minutes on the clock, Toulouse made their early dominance count with the opening try of the afternoon. With Bath defending on their line, Kolbe made a dash off his right wing, but Zach Mercer did brilliantly to stop the South African international crossing the whitewash. However, in the subsequent play, Iosefa Tekori crashed over from the maul. Zack Holmes added the extras. [7-0]
Bath came within a whisker of a try of their own two minutes later. Mercer found the opening in the 22 and charged for the line. The back row looked for the supporting Max Clark, but his offload just went astray and Toulouse were able to clear their lines.
Holmes increased his side’s lead on the 17 minute mark, as the Australian slotted a penalty after Bath were penalised for holding on. Bath got their first points on the scoreboard six minutes later, with Rhys Priestland making no mistake from the tee. [10-3]
Toulouse continued to test the Bath defence and a second try of the afternoon nearly followed. The The French side quickly switch from from right to left and with the numbers out wide it looked like Yoann Huget had found his way over in the corner. The cheers from the crowd were short-lived, as the TMO showed that Clark had miraculously stopped the winger inches from the line.
With the game drifting into the final ten minutes of the half, Toulouse managed to break through the resolute Bath defence. Dupont was at the centre of the move, as the scrum half made the initial break into the 22. The ball was recycled to the left wing, before both sides scrambled for the loose ball on the left wing. However, it was Dupont who was quickest and found his way over to score. Holmes made it a seven-point score with kick. [17-3]
Bath continued to show their intent in attack, with Dave Attwood showing his power with ball in hand to take the Blue, Black and White to within seven metres of the line. Despite put considerable pressure on the the men in red, Bath were unable to make the crucial breakthrough.
Half-time – Toulouse 17-3 Bath Rugby
It was a cagey start to the second half, with neither team able to capitalise on opportunities. Toulouse came closest to scoring, spending five minutes in the Bath 22, but a mixture of strong defence and work at the breakdown saw the visitors come out unscathed.
It wasn’t until the 60th minute when the first points of the half were scored, and it was one worth waiting for. Tom Homer provided the initial break, as the full-back sped his way over halfway. Priestland then stepped into the line and put a pinpoint kick into the Toulouse 22. The home defence were unable to secure the ball and Semesa Rokoduguni was on hand to provide the simple finish. Priestland’s conversion took Bath to within seven points on the scoreboard. [17-10]
A penalty from Thomas Ramos with 13 minutes left gave Toulouse a ten-point buffer, but Bath continued to fight right until the end. [20-10]
Bath’s tenacity and patience was duly rewarded, as Mercer touched down with five minutes to play. The Blue, Black and White mounted attack after attack before a penalty was signalled deep into the Toulouse 22. Captain Luke Charteris called for the five metre scrum and it paid dividends. A few short carries followed before Mercer barged his way over under the posts. Priestland quickly added the drop-kick conversion to put Bath within three of their French counterparts. [20-17]
With the clock ticking away, Bath were unable to complete the comeback, but will come away with a huge amount of credit following a huge 80 minute effort against one of Europe’s in-form sides.
Full-time – Toulouse 20-17 Bath Rugby