A perfect balance of forward power and awe-inspiring back play gave Bath Rugby an 18-35 Champions Cup away win against Toulouse that will live long in the memory.
Bath registered points not long after George Ford had kicked off to start the match; Horacio Agulla running a devastating line to put the fly-half in a good position to penalise Toulouse's indiscretion at the breakdown. 0-3.
Some remarkable clever passing from both Bath's forwards and backs then found Francois Louw in midfield, and the Springbok flanker threw a perfectly-judged long pass to Matt Banahan on the wing. Banahan jogged over for the first try of the match, and Ford converted. 0-10. Toulouse's powerful driving maul was key to their response, second row Yoann Maestri touching down for the second try of the match. Former England fly-half Toby Flood was on song with his conversion. 7-10.
The home side were the architects of Bath's second try, as Chris Cook intercepted a pass from a Toulouse lineout to sprint away for the score. With the conversion missed, Bath now held a 7-15 lead. The world-class abilities of Kyle Eastmond were on show in the 28th minute. The centre put on a show-and-go of the highest order; the ball fed to Banahan who took out two defenders before popping to Jonathan Joseph to touch down. Ford converted. 7-22.
Agulla's breathtaking break up the right wing moments later resulted in what looked like a try to Anthony Watson, but what could have been a worthy contender for try of the week was denied by the TMO. Still, Bath didn't come away empty-handed from that encounter, winning a penalty at the resulting scrum in front of the posts, which gave them three points from Ford. 7-25.
Not to be outdone, Toulouse hit back through Yoann Huget when the winger sidestepped his way through the Bath defence from his side's attacking scrum to score. Flood missed the conversion, but was more accurate with a penalty kick on the stroke of half-time, which made it a ten-point deficit.
Half time: Toulouse 15-25 Bath Rugby
After seven minutes of play, Flood drew the hosts to within a converted try of Bath with a penalty kick. 18-25.
Despite some staggeringly good phases of play from both sides, it wasn't until the final 10 minutes that a telling blow was dealt. It was appropriate that Jonathan Joseph - so adventurous throughout - who dealt it, setting up a try for Francois Louw that will be watched repeatedly on European Rugby highlights for years to come.
Taking the ball on halfway, Joseph chipped the ball through the oncoming Toulouse line, caught it on the fly and rounded the defence with astonishing pace. He then passed back inside to Ross Batty, who fed Francois Louw for yet another scintillating team try from Bath, converted by Ford. 18-32.
Ford then added insult to injury against the European giants, successfully kicking a final minute penalty to add the icing on the cake that will feed Bath supporters' dreams of making it through to the next stage of the Champions Cup.
Final score: Toulouse 18-35 Bath Rugby
Stade Ernest Wallon
European Rugby Champions Cup
18 January 2015
Referee: George Clancy
Half Time score: 15-25
- Tries: Maestri (12), Huget (35)
- Conversions: Flood (13)
- Penalties: Flood (39, 47)
- Tries: Banahan (6), Cook (23), Joseph (26), Louw (70)
- Conversions: Ford (7, 27, 72)
- Penalties: Ford (1, 33, 81)