Bath Rugby hold on to claim victory over Montpellier

Tries from Olly Woodburn and David Flatman, as well as six points from the boot of Stephen Donald secured a vital victory in front of a packed Recreation Ground. Final Score Bath Rugby 16 Montpellier 13.

Bath started well getting out the blocks fast and using the width of the pitch well, with Olly Woodburn running a great angle early on and breaking the gain line. The Bath pressure told on the visitors as the French outfit folded under the relentless Bath attack, giving away a penalty and allowing home debutant Stephen Donald to slot his first penalty at the Rec. 3-0.

The Blue, Black and Whites were soon again on the attack as Montpellier threw a defending line out in their own 22. A spilt ball landed in the hands of scrum half Michael Claassens, who whipped the ball quickly to Donald. Using his footwork to hold the defence, the World Cup winning fly-half showed his experience and vision by throwing a beautiful lofted pass wide and over the heads of the flat defence to Woodburn, who sprinted down the wing to score unopposed. Donald struck the conversion superbly, but the ball hit the upright. 8-0.

The home side were dominating the first 20 minutes of this contest and Man of the Match Donald was in the thick of it. Montpellier were stringing  together their first set of phases as they entered the Bath 22, but the pass of French World cup finalist, Francois Trinh-Duc, was intercepted by Donald who turned on the gas and sprinted the remaining 80 metres towards the try line. Montpellier put together a scrambled defence, and Donald was tackled metres short of the line, however, the Bath support was there in numbers. Despite Trinh-Duc slowing the ball down illegally providing Bath with the advantage, Claassens quickly recycled and span the ball left with the final receiver being prop David Flatman, who with the roar of the crowd, scored his first ever Bath try after 147 appearances. As well as Bath breaching the try line, Montpellier felt the sting of referee Alain Rolland as Trinh-Duc was sent to the bin following his professional foul in slowing down the ball.

Montpellier recovered slightly after Bath's brace of tries with a long range penalty effort from Martin Bustos Moyano, supplying the first points for Montpellier. 13-3.

As half time arrived, Bath were clearly the side in control and two missed Montpellier penalty opportunities kept the half time score 13-3.

Bath were again on the board first in the second half as the packs physicality at the breakdown earned a penalty just inside the visitors half. Donald stepped up and hit the ball perfectly sending it over the posts. 16-3.

Montpellier, who last week drew against last year's Heineken Cup winners, Leinster, came back with a determined attack. With Bath a man down as hooker Ross Batty lay injured, the French Top 14 side attacked with width and two quick offloads allowed Moyano to cross over the line, despite the calls of the crowd for a forward pass. The wing added the conversion, taking the score to 16-10.

The French seemed to have found some cohesion and were now maintaining their possession and using it to great effect. Another promising attack became fruitful as Bath were penalised and no advantage came. Trinh-Duc showed his international calibre and slotted a wide penalty kick to claw his sides deficit back to within three points. 16-13.

The forward battle had been immense and Bath freshened up their front row with Anthony Perenise and Charlie Beech replacing David Wilson and Flatman respectively.

Bath's revitalised front row, also now with Mark Lilley who replaced the injured Batty, gathered some go-forth momentum and were applying the pressure once again through the phases as they entered the Montpellier 22. A neat Sam Vesty grubber put their winger under pressure, taking the ball into touch. A missed line out opportunity seemed to have wasted Bath's earlier possession but the home side regrouped well and attacked once again. However, Montpelier's defence was solid and for the moment, prevented Bath capitalising on their possession.

Bath made further changes as the game was in its latter stages with Guy Mercer and Mark McMillan came on for Lewis Moody and Claassens, as well as a notable return to first team action for Olly Barkley, who came on for Vesty with just over five minutes remaining.

The last five minutes was extremely tense as Montpellier piled on the pressure and sought the draw. Bath's defence was tested to the limit as Montpellier threw everything they had at the home try line, however, the patience and discipline of Bath prevailed and a knock on provided the opportunity to end the game. As the seconds ticked down, Bath held strong and Donald sealed the victory by sending the ball flying into the stands. Final Score 16-13.

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