Bath Rugby fell to a late Anthony Belleau try, as Toulon maintained their 100% start in the European Rugby Champions Cup with a 24-20 victory at Stade Mayol.
Bath got the first points of the afternoon from the boot of Rhys Priestland. It came after Ben Tapuai pounced on a fumble from Francois Trinh-Duc, before hacking up field from his own 22. The Australian and his midfield partner Jonathan Joseph gave chase and forced Semi Radradra into conceding a penalty. Priestland made no mistake, and put his side into a 0-3 lead with 12 minutes on the clock. 0-3
It got even better for the visitors two minutes later, with Anthony Watson finishing off a well-worked try. Joseph spread the ball wide to Aled Brew and the Welsh winger bulldozed his way through the tackle of Josua Tuisova before offloading to the on-rushing Watson, who extended Bath’s lead. Priestland made it a seven point score with the successful conversion. 0-10
With six minutes to play in the half, Toulon scored a try of their own. The home side piled on the pressure in attack, which created the numbers out wide for Ma’a Nonu to finish under the posts. 7-10
With the clock in the red, Priestland added another penalty to give his side a six-point advantage going into the interval.
Half-time – Toulon 7-13 Bath Rugby
Bath were reduced to 14 men nine minutes into the second-half, with Chris Cook seeing yellow for an infringement at the breakdown. In the set piece that followed, Alby Mathewson picked up from the back of the scrum and powered his way over the try line. Trinh-Duc’s conversion put Toulon in the lead for the first time in the game. 14-13
With a little less than 20 minutes to play, Bath found themselves back in front on the scoreboard, taking advantage of a sliced kick from Chris Ashton. Pegged back in the in goal area, the former England international aimed his kick for touch, but instead found its way into the hands of Joseph, who put Bath back in control on the scoreboard. 14-20
Trinh-Duc kicked his side to within three points, which meant a tense final 15 minutes at the Stade Mayol. Toulon were a fraction from their second try, but for a superb last-ditch tackle from Paul Grant, who managed to stop Ashton after a breakway move from the home side. 17-20
Toulon continued to press the Bath defence, and despite some resolute defending, French side managed to find their way through. It was a touch of magic from replacement Anthony Belleau, who pounced on his own grubber kick from five metres out to put Toulon in the driving seat with four minutes remaining. 24-20
Bath weren’t ready to throw in the towel, giving everything in the closing minutes with one final assault on the Toulon line. However, the three-time European winners stood firm and maintained their unbeaten start in the competition.
Full-time – Toulon 24-20 Bath Rugby
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European Rugby Champions Cup
9 December 2017
Referee: Andy Brace
Half Time score: 7-13
- Tries: Nonu (33), Mathewson (50), Belleau (75)
- Conversions: Trinh-Duc (35, 51), Belleau (77)
- Penalties: Trinh-Duc (66)
- Tries: Watson (14), Joseph (60)
- Conversions: Priestland (15, 61)
- Penalties: Priestland (12, 41)