Bath Rugby left it fashionably late in the match to secure a bonus point 32-12 victory against Montpellier in Round Four of the European Rugby Champions Cup.
Much pre-match talk had centred around Bath earning the try bonus point in this fixture, having just failed to do so at the Altrad Stadium last week. This prospect looked highly likely as Bath scored within the opening two minutes through Matt Banahan, which had its roots in a Leroy Houston chargedown. The try wasn't awarded by Italian referee Marius Mitrea without much deliberation from the TMO but once given, George Ford converted to give Bath a 7-0 lead.
Montpellier allowed their opponents to edge further ahead in the seventh minute, failing to release a Bath player and gifting Ford a penalty and three points. 10-0.
A decoy run by Sam Burgess (on his first start for the Club) after 14 minutes was the launchpad for his centre partner Jonathan Joseph to dash upfield and put Banahan away for his second try in less than 15 minutes. Again, Ford converted.
With Bath holding a 17-point lead, it was Montpellier who enjoyed all the territory and most of the possession in the second quarter of the first half. It was only the quick wit of the Bath pack in the 40th minute which stifled a likely Montpellier score, disrupting their scrum near the Bath 5m enough to win back the ball and kick to touch to end the first half.
Half time: Bath Rugby 17-0 Montpellier
The second half started precisely as the first, with Bath charging down Montpellier in the visitors' 22. Although it wasn't to result in a try, the position from which the penalty was given was perfect for a three-pointer from Ford. 20-0.
In the 52nd minute, Bath made a wholesale change in the front row, and it instantly paid dividends. Nick Auterac, Rob Webber and Henry Thomas were part of a maul which put Banahan over from close range, the winger securing his hat-trick for the evening after stiff-arming the defender to go over for the try. 25-0.
Shortly after the hour mark, Montpellier made their attacking lineout count, with number eight Alex Tulou barging over for an unconverted try. 25-5.
Montpellier scored another close-range effort six minutes from time through replacement prop Mickael Ivaldi, converted by replacement scrum-half Benoit Pail Iaugue. 25-12.
By now, time was running out for Bath to score that crucial bonus point. It all looked very unlikely until the 78th minute when, in Montpellier's 22, replacement wing Horacio Agulla cut a remarkable angle to run in untouched for Bath's fourth try. Ford, of course, converted from in front of the posts to give the crowd further reason to cheer at the denouement of this Anglo-French Champions Cup clash.
Final score: Bath Rugby 32-Montpellier 12
European Rugby Champions Cup
12 December 2014
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Half Time score: 17-0
- Tries: Banahan (2, 13, 51), Agulla (78)
- Conversions: Ford (3, 14, 78)
- Penalties: Ford (6, 43)
- Tries: Tulou (61), Ivaldi (73)
- Conversions: Paillaugue (74)