Bath Rugby’s European adventure came to an end at the Challenge Cup semi-final stage as Montpellier progressed to the final with a 19-10 win at the Rec.
Tom Dunn’s try got the Blue, Black and White off to the best of starts but a Yacouba Camara score and Benoit Paillaugue’s boot gave the French side the lead at the break.
The majority of the possession was with the hosts in the second half though they found a stubborn Montpellier outfit in their way who secured victory through three Handre Pollard points.
In torrential conditions, Stuart Hooper’s men came out of the blocks in strong fashion. First, they retrieved the ball from the kick-off and then put continuous pressure on those in orange, charging down two kick to pen the Montpellier on their own five metre.
An overthrown line-out followed and an unrelenting Bath were rewarded as Montpellier knocked. Forward power won the gainline battle and hooker Dunn squeezed over the whitewash.
Pol Roger Performance of the Match Anthony Watson displayed touches of class shortly. The England international claimed superbly in the air, towering above several bodies, and also dinked delightfully into the corner to turn the heads of the visitors.
Jonathan Joseph produced a similarly creative low drive and Will Muir stretched his legs on a couple of occasions as the Gallagher Premiership remained on the front foot.
When Montpellier did attack, a high number of Bath shirts swarmed to force them into mistakes. They did have their moments – Saracens loanee Alex Lozowski proved a dangerous opponent, slicing through a gap, leading to scrum-half Paillaugue kicking a penalty.
Bath’s discipline around the middle third had the potential to hurt them on the scoreboard as Paillaugue and Johan Goosen missed long-range shots at goal. The former did play a hand in Montpellier’s next points. He cutely box kicked over a ruck for Vincent Rattez to gather and the France wing offloaded inside for flanker Camara to run in.
Ben Spencer struck three points to level the game just shy of the half-hour mark but two Paillaugue penalties saw Montpellier ahead at the interval.
A huge defensive set at the start of the second period spurred Bath on and for large spells, they camped inside the opposition 22.
Carry after carry, the Blue, Black and Whites battered the fringes and tightened the game up searching for a vital score to reduce the deficit. Prop Enzo Forletta was sin binned for illegally thwarting Bath in the red zone, but Bath couldn’t make the most of the numerical advantage.
They punched holes and made several in-roads, however couldn’t get beyond the defensive efforts of Les Cistes.
Montpellier continued to frustrate those in black and buoyed by small wins at the breakdown and set piece, Springbok Pollard came off the bench to seal the result with a last-minute penalty.
15. Anthony Watson, 14. Joe Cokanasiga, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Cameron Redpath, 11. Will Muir, 10. Orlando Bailey, 9. Ben Spencer; 1. Juan Schoeman, 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Will Stuart, 4. Josh McNally, 5. Charlie Ewels ©, 6. Taulupe Faletau, 7. Sam Underhill, 8. Zach Mercer
Replacements: 16. Jack Walker, 17. Jamie Bhatti, 18. Henry Thomas, 19. Elliott Stooke, 20. Josh Bayliss, 21. Miles Reid, 22. Will Chudley, 23. Max Clark
15. Anthony Bouthier, 14. Julien Tisseron, 13. Johannes Goosen, 12. Arthur Vincent, 11. Vincent Rattez, 10. Alex Lozowski, 9. Benoit Paillaugue; 1. Enzo Forletta, 2. Guilem Guirado ©, 3. Mohamed Haouas, 4. Florian Verhaeghe, 5. Paul Willemse, 6. Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 7. Yacouba Camara, 8. Alexandre Becognee
Replacements: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Gregory Fichten, 18. Titi Lamositele, 19. Tyler Duguid, 20. Fulgence Ouedraogo, 21. Cobus Reinach, 22. Handre Pollard, 23. Vincent Martin