A wet night greeted Bath Rugby in Montpellier, but it didn't deter the visitors from delivering a clinical performance to steal a 5-30 away win in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
The weather may have dictated the style of play to some extent, but it was Bath who were able to adapt to the conditions and as a consequence exert greater control over the game.
An early penalty at the scrum gave an indication of what was to come, although George Ford's attempt at goal drifted wide. He made amends on the 11th minute with a neatly struck drop-goal. The lineout was secured, Ford dropped into the pocket, made the call and sent the ball cleanly through the posts. Montpellier had the chance to level the scores moments later, but scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue's long-range shot fell short. 0-3.
The set-piece was proving to be a powerful weapon for Bath. A strong maul left Montpellier with no option but to bring it down illegally, and Ford dutifully slotted the three points.
He added a further three following an off-the-ball hit by Antoine Battut on Chris Cook - the flanker saw yellow for his troubles. 0-9.
The 35th minute saw the game spark into life. Matt Banahan chased his own kick, and when Lucas Dupont gathered, the giant wing was on hand to bundle his opposite man into touch with a helping hand from Ross Batty. Two lineouts later, the Bath forwards were trucking the ball up through the middle and Henry Thomas was on hand to crash over from short range near the posts. Ford added the conversion. 0-16.
Having just returned to a full complement of players, the home side's discipline let them down once more, with captain Thibaut Privat was sent to the sin-bin for pulling Dominic Day down at the lineout. With the opposition down to 14 men, and the Bath scrum already in the ascendency, the call was made to take another. It proved a wise decision. As the home pack was sent wheeling backwards, referee Ian Davies had no hesitation in signalling for the penalty try. Ford slotted the conversion giving the visitors a 0-23 lead at half-time.
Half-time: Montpellier 0 – Bath Rugby 23.
As the second-half got underway the home side looked to have a little more zest about them, looking dangerous with ball in hand. It was Bath who were next to score though, Leroy Houston crashing over for a sublime try in any conditions, let alone the pouring rain. A dummy from Ford was bought by the defence and allowed him to offload to Houston who then returned the favour. Ford found Thomas who deftly kept the ball alive as he was tackled to keep the move going. Kyle Eastmond collected the offload from the prop, before passing to Houston who powered on and twisted over the line to score. Ford was once again on target with the shot at goal, adding the extra two points. 0-30.
Montpellier were once more reduced to 14 on 50 minutes, replacement hooker Charles Geli the man to infringe this time. Bath were unable to take advantage of the extra man though, and the game became increasingly scrappy and stop-start.
Montpellier eventually gave their supporters something to cheer about, scoring through Alex Tulou on the 69th minute in a move that also saw Stuart Hooper yellow carded for pulling the player down at the lineout.
Bath were desperate to score the all-important bonus point try but the home side's defence was finally standing firm and they were flying into attack trying to get something more from the game. It was not to be however, and the game finished with a 25 point advantage to Bath.
Final score: Montpellier 5 – Bath Rugby 30.
European Rugby Champions Cup
5 December 2014
Referee: Ian Davies
Half Time score: 0-23
- Tries: Tulou (68)
- Tries: Thomas (34), Houston (49)
- Conversions: Ford (35, 39, 50)
- Penalties: Ford (22, 26)
- Drop goals: Ford (10)