Bath Rugby recorded their 100th victory in Europe, with a 26-21 European Rugby Champions Cup triumph over three-time Champions Toulon at the Recreation Ground.
Bath got off to a blistering start scoring inside a minute of play. It was Aled Brew who created the attack, stealing the ball from the kick-off. The Welsh winger then made another strong carry before offloading to Beno Obano, who bulldozed his way over the whitewash from close range. Rhys Priestland made it a seven-point score with the resulting conversion. 7-0.
It got even better for the home side as Priestland added two quickfire penalties to make it 13-0 with as many minutes on the clock.
The visitors, who spent large parts of the first 40 camped in their own half, hit back with a try of their own. It was an opportunistic score, Alby Mathewson crossing after a well-worked move from the line-out. Francois Trinh-duc added the extras. 13-7.
With the game heading into the last 10 minutes of the half, Anthony Watson created a moment of magic to extend Bath’s lead. After receiving an inside pass from Jonathan Joseph on the right wing, Watson accelerated through the challenges of two Toulon defenders before powering his way over the line. 18-10.
After Trinh-Duc reduced arrears to five points from the tee, it was left to Watson to have the final word of the half. Tom Dunn and Obano created the attacking foundation with strong carries, and then the fullback finished the move in style. The England international made his way over to the left wing searching for the gap, but it wasn’t needed as he left his opposite number, Hugo Bonneval, for dust to finish in the corner for his second of the evening.
Half-time: Bath Rugby 23-13 Toulon
Toulon were out of the blocks quickly in the second-half, and owed their second try of the game to a superb break from Ma’a Nonu. The former All Black unlocked the Bath defence before offloading to Chris Ashton in support. With the line in his sights, the back-tracking Jack Wilson produced a try-saving tackle, however moments later the ball found its way to Samu Manoa, who bundled his way over the line, despite the brave efforts of Dunn who tried to halt the second rower. 23-18.
With 25 minutes left to play, Bath gave themselves a bit of breathing space with another Priestland penalty, much to the delight of the near-capacity crowd at the Rec. His French counterpart Trinh-Duc ensured that it would be a nervy finale with a penalty of his own. 26-21.
The three-time European Champions continued to pile on the pressure as they searched for a score that would see them claim a second victory over Bath in as many weeks. Toulon gave it their best shot, going through over 30 phases as they pressurized a resolute Bath defence, but the Blue, Black and White stood firm and closed out the game, the win taking them to the top of Pool 5.
Final score: Bath Rugby 26-21 Toulon