Bath Rugby narrowly failed to claw their way back to victory at the Rec today, going down 19-21 to Toulouse in the Club’s first home European Rugby Champions Cup match.
Toulouse’s scrum had been on the back foot twice in the first four minutes of the match, and the second penalty given to Bath was in kickable distance for George Ford. The fly-half drew first blood in the match with his successful kick. 3-0.
Less than 10 minutes later, a Toulouse penalty on halfway became a free-kick on Bath’s 22 following an accidental offside by a home player. The visitors pounced and made the most of the overlap to run in a simple try through wing Vincent Clerc (adding to his record-holding tally of 35 tries in European competition).
Toulouse fly-half Toby Flood converted Clerc’s try to give the Frenchmen a four-point lead. In the 30th minute, after Bath’s several phases of attack yielded no fruit, Ford slotted a cool drop goal. 6-7.
Jonathan Joseph showed all his class and commitment not long after when Yoann Huget had intercepted a chip through. The French international winger looked to have an easy run-in for the try, but his speed showed no match for the Bath centre, who chased him down brilliantly to save the try.
Joseph’s incredible tackle, and Flood’s missed penalty on the stroke of half time, meant there was only a point in the game when the clock struck 40.
Half time: Bath Rugby 6 – 7 Toulouse
It was only a matter of minutes into the second half when Bath re-took the lead through a Ford penalty. 9-7.
Toulouse displayed similar alacrity, however, when they punished Bath’s bunched stretched defence and allowed Imanol Harinordoquy to go over for his side’s second try. A good touchline conversion from Flood extended Toulouse’s lead. 9-14.
In this series of tit-for-tat scores, exemplary ball-carrying from Dominic Day and Charlie Ewels (making his starting debut for Bath) set the home side up for a penalty in front of the visitors’ posts; Ford narrowing the score to 12-14.
Toulouse failed to be put off by Bath’s scoreboard chase and shortly after the hour, Bath’s valiant defence eventually gave way to another French try – this one by fullback Medard, which Luke McAlister converted. 12-21.
With fewer than ten minutes to go, some clever passing led to replacement wing Olly Woodburn going over for what seemed to be a legitimate try. The TMO had other ideas, deeming Woodburn’s knee to be in touch before he grounded the ball.
Still, Bath had a penalty advantage and their maul – complementing their bullying scrum on the day – allowed replacement hooker Ross Batty to score. With Ford’s successful conversion, it was back to a two-point deficit for Bath. 19-21.
Unfortunately, that was how the score remained. Despite Bath progressing back into the Toulouse half with good intent after the restart, the visitors turned them over and kicked to touch to end what had been a compelling and close match.
Full time: Bath Rugby 19 – 21 Toulouse