An impressive display from Stade Francais ended Bath Rugby's hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup as they beat the hosts 20-36 at the Recreation Ground this afternoon.
The game started with both sides looking for early opportunities, and it looked as if Bath would have the first points when Kyle Eastmond burst 40 metres through the Stade defence, but a good covering tackle from fullback Hugh Bonneval saw the young centre brought down 10 metres short of the try-line.
Ollie Devoto then had the chance to put the home side ahead with a long-range penalty chance, but his attempt fell just short of the crossbar.
Stade then set about taking control of the game, and fly-half Jules Plisson put them three points up after 16 minutes. It wasn't long after that the visitors scored the first of their four tries, with Fijian winger Waisea Vuidarvuwalu powering over in the corner following a quick move through the three-quarters. Scrum-half Jerome Fillol converted, giving Stade a 10 point lead.
It was a lead they quickly extended with a penalty from Fillol, before Stephen Donald got Bath on the scoreboard on 25 minutes with a penalty of his own. 3-13.
However, just after the half-hour, a loose pass in the midfield saw Vuidarvuwalu sprint away for his second try. Fillol was again on target with the conversion, taking the lead to 3-20.
Loosehead Rabah Slimani was sin-binned four minutes before half-time after he took Nick Abendanon out in the air, but Stade's control of the game held until the break.
Half-time – Bath Rugby 3 – Stade Francais 20.
From the start of the second-half, Bath made their attacking intentions clear. Awarded a kickable penalty, Donald instead fired it into the corner for the lineout. Stuart Hooper took the lineout well, and the pack drove hard towards the line. There would have been a try scored if it weren't for the cynical actions of Scott Lavalla trying to prevent the score, and referee Nigel Owens ran underneath the posts to signal the penalty try. Donald added the extras, and Lavalla saw yellow for his efforts. 10-20.
The fight back looked to be on for Bath, however two quick tries in as many minutes from Stade saw them take a 20 point lead with 20 minutes to go.
Both were scored by Bonneval and made by Vuidarvuwalu. First the winger broke diagonally across the field to allow the fullback to cross, and then he began the move that led to Bonneval's second with a neat one-handed take in his own 22 that saw Stade sweep up the field and score. 10-30.
Bath kept plugging away though and worked hard to try and breakthrough the stern Stade defence. Another Bath penalty on the 64th minute was sent to the corner. The lineout functioned well and another huge drive was established. Replacement Michael Claassens peeled off the back, and headed for the try-line. It looked as if the scrum-half had been stopped short, but he showed all his power and experience to stretch out over the line and plant the ball down. Replacement fly-half Tom Heathcote edged the conversion wide, but Bath were throwing everything into fighting their way back into the game.
Plisson had other ideas however, and when the fly-half struck a speculative drop-goal attempt from inside his own half with ten minutes to go, which was awarded by the TMO, it effectively ended Bath's hopes of a comeback.
They didn't give up though. Twice it looked as if a try had been scored, first when the pack heaved their way over and then when Anthony Perenise touched down but they were ruled out for being held-up and a double movement respectively.
Bath did cross for a third try as Jack Cuthbert barged his way over, but with just two minutes to go there was little more the home side could do before Jerome Porical's penalty bounced in off the crossbar.
Final score – Bath Rugby 20 – Stade Francais 36.