Bath Rugby powered to a seven-try, 28-47 bonus point win over Benetton Rugby in the final round of this year’s European Rugby Champions Cup.
Keeping their hands on the ball in the opening exchanges, it was the home side who opened the scoring. Quick ball from the base of the scrum found its way to Luca Sperandio on the wing. He put in a neat chip ahead, and luck was with the Italian. Freddie Burns was unable to gather cleanly and Sperandio instead found the ball in his arms and sprinted away to score. Tommaso Allan added the conversion. 7-0.
Baath hit back quickly, and kept control of the game throughout the first-half. Two minutes after the home side had opened the scoring, Tom Dunn blasted over the try line to score after a strong driving maul. Burns converted, drawing the two sides level.
Another lineout five metres from the Benetton try line produced another score on the 23rd minute – referee Pascal Gauzere judging the home side to have prevented Bath from scoring illegally. He showed no hesitation in awarding the penalty try and sent scrum-half Edoardo Gori to the sin-bin. 7-14.
With a man advantage, the gaps opened up for the visitors. A chip from Jonathan Joseph saw Aled Brew make ground down the left wing. The ball was fed back inside, with Burns and then Watson firing passes out. The fullback’s landed in the hands of an unmarked Matt Banahan, who just held on to dot down over the line. Burns was again on target with the conversion. 7-21.
The bonus-point came courtesy of Anthony Watson. The fullback started the move from deep with one of his trademark arching, probing runs. Elliott Stooke carried on the attack with a powerful charge, before Brew broke free. He found the England international in support, who had a simple run in over the line. Burns converted. 7-28.
Bath were in possession as the official match clock ticked to forty minutes, and there was just time for one more attack, that led to a classy try. Burns found Joseph in a gap with a sumptuous pass, and the centre turned on the pace to glide through the defence and across the whitewash. The fly-half added the extras.
Half-time score: Benetton Rugby 7 – Bath Rugby 35.
Benetton – who had run both Scarlets and Toulon close in earlier rounds – came out firing in the second-half, and they made the pressure count with two quick tries. Sebastian Negri went over first from close range after a series of carries, before Tommaso Benvenuti scored a breakaway try despite the chase of Ben Tapuai and Watson. Allan converted both tries to take the score to 21-35.
Bath worked hard to maintain their control of the game, and the driving maul – proving to be a dominant weapon – was put to good use again. Zach Mercer splintered from the back of the drive and dived in to the corner. Burns was on target with the tricky touchline conversion. 21-42.
Two minutes from time, Bath’s seventh try of the evening came courtesy of replacement Luke Charteris, who stretched over the line after another authoritative drive from the Bath pack.
Benetton got their own bonus point try with the last play of the game – the Television Match Official confirming that Monty Ioane hadn’t strayed into touch before scoring. Allan converted with the final kick of the game.
The team did all they could by securing the bonus point win to put themselves in contention for the knock-out stages of the Champions Cup, but with Toulon getting a losing bonus point in their game at the Parc y Scarlets, it is the Welsh and French sides who progress to the Quarter-Finals from Pool 5.
Final score: Benetton Rugby 28 – Bath Rugby 47.