Bath Rugby were beaten 34-17 after a dominant second-half display from Clermont Auvergne in Round 3 of the Heineken Champions Cup at the Rec on Friday evening.
In a tightly contested opening period, the Blue, Black and White employed a resilient defensive display and put Clermont on the back foot, as both sides looked to get a hold of the game.
Bath Rugby got their reward after 13 minutes, the ball went through five phases and after portraying a great deal of patience, the sides persistence paid off as Rhys Priestland found his way over the whitewash. The fly-half opened up a gap in the Clermont defence after a show and go from the 22 and the Welsh international crashed over unopposed in the corner. Priestland then converted his own score giving his side an early lead. [7-0]
The hosts kept momentum flowing with their attacking game and just five minutes later looked to add a second. However, after some scrambling defence from the French giants, with Nick Abendanon forcing a knock-on in contact.
Clermont responded well as the French giants added a score of their own. George Moala wriggled his way over the whitewash after showing great strength from ten meters out. Camille Lopez levelled the scores after 27 minutes of play. [7-7]
In a tightly contested affair, Bath looked to add to their score as Priestland went through for what looked to be his second of the game, but referee Andrew Brace called back play as the Blue, Black and White were deemed to have obstructed in the build-up.
Clermont contained a number of attacking threats during the opening 40 minutes and Bath were unable to build a lead. The hosts dominated possession and territory during the first period but that did not show on the scoreboard as the two sides went into half-time.
Half-time - Bath Rugby 7-7 Clermont Auvergne
Clermont looked to gain the lead just five minutes into the second-half, as fly-half Camille Lopez sat in the pocket and his attempted drop-goal from 30-yards out went shy of the uprights. [10-10]
Just one minute later Clermont were however then able to take the lead after a lapse in concentration let the hosts down from the breakdown. Greg Laidlaw slotted his effort through the sticks with ease. [7-10]
The hosts responded well just three minutes later with some fantastic expansive rugby. Bath Rugby were rewarded for their persistence after Brace awarded a penalty against Clermont for not rolling away. Priestland levelled the scores from 15-yards out. [10-10]
After 53 minutes on the clock, Bath’s discipline took its toll and Clermont were on hand to take advantage after Bath were caught offside. Laidlaw again went for the posts and gave his side the lead. [10-13]
Shortly after Laidlaw had another chance to add to Clermont’s lead but this time, the Scotland internationals kick was dragged wide of the posts. [10-13]
The French side continued to keep compiling the pressure and with 15 minutes left of play, Samuel Azeala came off the wing and crashed over following an excellent break through and offload from Moala. Laidlaw added the extras to extend the lead to seven points. [10-20]
In as many minutes, Azeala played a pivotal role in an exuberant attack from Clermont to add another try. The wing received the ball from Fritz Lee and after being brought down two meters short, he popped the ball unselfishly to Alexandre Lapandry to score. Laidlaw extended his sides lead. [10-27]
Clermont sealed the result with their fourth try of the game to secure a bonus-point win as Azeala found his way over for his brace. Laidlaw added another to add to his impressive tally in the second-half. [10-34]
With five minutes left, Jonathan Joseph crashed over the whitewash after some solid build-up play. Priestland added two from the tee. [22-34]
Full-Time - Bath Rugby 17-34 Clermont Auvergne
Bath Rugby travel to Clermont Auvergne next Sunday in the return tie of the double header in Round Four of the Heineken Champions Cup.
8. Francois Louw (C), 7. Josh Bayliss, 6.Mike Williams, 5. Elliot Stooke, 4. Josh McNally, 3. Will Stuart, 2. Tom Dunn, 1. Beno Obano; 9. Chris Cook, 10. Rhys Priestland, 11. Ruaridh McConnochie, 12. Jamie Roberts, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 14. Semesa Rokoduguni, 15. Tom Homer
16. Jack Walker, 17. Lewis Boyce, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Matt Garvey, 20. Rhys Davies, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Freddie Burns, 23. Aled Brew