Bath Rugby continued their unbeaten run and guaranteed themselves a spot in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-finals this afternoon with a 19-16 win over SU Agen at a rain-soaked Recreation Ground.
Tom Heathcote had the chance to open the scoring within two minutes but with the wind and rain making kicking conditions tricky, his 45m effort fell wide. He made no mistake shortly after however, when Agen again infringed 20m closer to the posts. 3-0.
A high-tackle from Francois Louw four minutes later gave the visitors the chance to get their first points of the game, with fly-half Raphael Lagarde duly converting. The level scores lasted only a minute though. A huge kick downfield from Heathcote proved troublesome for the Agen defence, who infringed and gave away a penalty the fly-half sent sailing through the posts. 6-3.
As the conditions worsened Heathcote had two further penalty attempts, one of which was from the half-way line, but they both drifted wide. However, the home side were gradually increasing their possession and territory to control the game.
Agen were not giving in easily however, and on 25 minutes they got their second penalty after winning a scrum in the Bath 22. 6-6.
The home side regained the advantage quickly after an Agen mistake allowed Bath to turn the ball over. Pressure was applied through number of pick and go phases within close range, and it eventually proved too much for the defending team as Man of the Match Paul James burrowed over from close range to score the first try of the game between the posts. Heathcote converted, extending the lead to 13-6.
Lagarde was on target to reduce the deficit just before half-time, seeing his penalty bring the French side back to within four points.
Half-time - Bath Rugby 13 – SU Agen 9.
The visitors came out from the break determined to pick up where they left off but as playmaker Lagarde was shown a yellow card for killing the ball, Heathcote once more extended the lead with the resulting penalty.
Agen kept fighting back, forcing the home side to defend. Their forwards pushed hard towards the try line, and they eventually tied the scores with a try from powerful number eight Uelenitoni Fono and conversion from Lagarde with just over 20 minutes left of the game.
Four minutes later and another infringement from Agen gave Heathcote the chance to land his fifth kick of the game and to restore the lead - a chance the young fly-half converted. 19-16.
As the game drew to a close both teams were putting their all into creating another chance to cross the line, but stern defences and the worsening conditions served to limit any further scoring opportunities.
The home side held on until the final whistle and booked their place in the quarter-finals in April, with next Saturday's clash with Bucharest Wolves deciding if it is played at home or away.
Final score - Bath Rugby 19 – SU Agen 16.