Bath Rugby fought their way to a winning start in the European Rugby Challenge Cup in France this evening, beating a spirited Pau side 22-25.
Rhys Priestland opened the scoring after just a minute with a penalty after the home side infringed at the breakdown. Pau fly-half Brandon Fajardo had the chance to draw level minutes later, but his shot at goal slid narrowly outside the post. 0-3.
Pau looked lively with ball in hand in the first quarter, running at their visitors aggressively. It paid off after 10 minutes, when a scrappy few passages of play from both side eventually led to fullback Romain Buros going over from short range in the corner. Fajardo found his range to convert the try. 7-3.
A rogue tackle on Jonathan Joseph led to Bath narrowing the gap on the scoreboard. The centre was tackled as he jumped to collect the high ball, and whilst the offending Pau player put Joseph back down safely on his feet, the penalty was given. Priestland went to the corner and the attack was set from the lineout. Whilst it didn’t lead to a breaching of the whitewash, it did earn the visitors another penalty, which Priestland duly sent sailing through the posts. 7-6.
Bath regained the lead with a try from Semesa Rokoduguni. Tom Homer had sent a beautifully weighted into space behind Pau’s last defender, chased effectively and forced the player into touch. Bath built pressure patiently from the lineout, the forwards picking and going, before spreading the ball wide to Rokoduguni, who powered through the Pau tackle to put the ball down over the line. Priestland continued his fine night from the tee, slotting the conversion neatly through the posts. 7-13.
Priestland added a further three points, before Pau hit back on the stroke of half-time with their second try of the night – Sean Dougall getting the score, with Fajardo adding the extras on the stroke of half-time to make it a two point game going into the break.
Half time: Pau 14 – Bath Rugby 16
Pau continued their spirited attack from the off, and Fajardo had the chance to take the lead for the first time in the game after a penalty went the French sides way at the scrum, but his attempt dropped under the crossbar.
Priestland and Fajardo exchanged further penalties as the game moved into the final quarter, with the Welshman continuing his 100% record – his final kick at goal came after Pau Number Eight Ben Mowen was shown a yellow card.
Moments later, and Bath were also down to 14 after Aled Brew was sin-binned for an adjudged high-tackle. Pau took advantage – centre Watisoni Votu crossing the whitewash from short range – but there was no conversion, so Bath kept a slender lead.
It was a lead they clung on to desperately in the final minutes as Pau continued to attack in wave after wave, but the strong defence of the visitors held firm and secured the victory.
Final score: Pau 22 – Bath Rugby 25.