At a cold and rainy Stade Jean Bouin, Bath Rugby's Heineken Cup clash against French giants Stade Français ended in defeat - by just two points. A score line that reflected not only Bath Rugby's spirited performance but the endeavour which was displayed in poor conditions.
Having failed to deal well with the kick off Bath Rugby were immediately put on the back foot as Stade started the game with five minutes of pressure in the visitor's half. Thankfully, having been given the chance for an early lead, Stade's kicker Lionel Beauxis missed a penalty from 45 metres out.
Stade continued with the majority of possession until the hosts' fly half Ignacio Mieres suffered a charge down of his attempted kick at goal and with the next phase of play being met by a good tackle from Lee Mears, Bath won a penalty so that they could clear their lines.
After 10 minutes, some strong defensive work from Michael Claassens gave Bath the opportunity to attack from deep, however, with the rain hacking down Bath spilled possession and whilst Michael Stephenson hacked on the loose ball and beat a covering defender, Stade's hooker Dimitri Szarzewski was in position to tidy up the loose ball and halt the charge.
Stade continued to dominate and a chip through into Bath's territory from Mirco Bergamasco and a subsequent knock on from Joe Maddock, led to a Stade penalty which was slotted successfully by Beauxis awarding them three points.
Two minutes later, Bath equalised after a great break from Maddock which was taken on by Davey Wilson, Luke Watson and Mears forcing a Stade offence at the break down. Bath's Nicky Little booted the ball for three points at 17 minutes.
However, the mirroring score spurred Stade to go for a try and following five minutes of possession in Bath's half, Stade centre Mathieu Bastareaud chipped through to create a try for Julien Arias who crossed the line in the top left hand corner.
As the first half of the match entered the final 10 minutes, Stade continued to have the upper hand. Bastareau made some ground from a scrum and paved the way for Arias to score his second try of the match, but this time in the opposite corner. A good conversion from Beauxis set Stade in the lead with 15 points to 3 at 33 minutes.
From the restart, Stade caught the ball and Hugo Southwell passed back to Beauxis who, incredibly, tried to volley the ball, missed, and Michael Claassens pounced for a try that was awarded after going to the video referee. With Little converting the try, the half-time whistle blew with the visitors just five points behind.
Returning from the interval, the travelling Bath fans didn't have to wait long for some more points to go in their teams favour as one minute into the second half Bath were awarded a penalty for a Stade offside and Little slotted the kick and narrowed the score divide to 15-13.
Following 10 minutes of stalemate, not helped by the pouring rain, Matt Banahan put in a superb kick from Bath's 22 into their hosts'. However, Bath came away with nothing to show for their efforts, despite maintaining their best period of possession of the game.
As the clock ticked on, the jersey winger caught a loose kick from Stade, beating the first defender before offloading to fellow winger, Maddock. Bath attempted to put the pressure on Stade to go for the winning try, but Stade's number eight Juan Leguizamon halted Bath's advance by gaining possession and clearing the ball from their territory.
The closing minutes were tense, with neither team keeping possession for long. As the clock counted down, Bath pushed for the break through, but knocked on in their eagerness, and from the resulting scrum Stade were able to wind down the clock. Alan Lewis signalled the end of the game with the whistle and marked Bath's courageous defeat.