European Champions Cup: Toulon 12-9 Bath

Toulon v Bath
Sunday's game was the first meeting between the two sides in Europe
European Champions Cup, Pool Five
Toulon (6) 12
Pens: Escande 3, Michalak
Bath (6) 9
Pens: Ford Drop-goals: Ford 2

Reigning champions Toulon scored a late penalty to earn a vital win against Bath in the European Champions Cup.

The two teams went into the game level on points in Pool Five - both trailing leaders Wasps by six.

George Ford kicked Bath ahead on three occasions at the Stade Felix Mayol but Toulon's Eric Escande matched him every time from the tee.

And despite a strong second half from Bath, Freddie Michalak landed the winning penalty after 75 minutes.

The first ever meeting between the two sides was due to be played back in November, but was postponed following the deadly attacks on Paris.

Bath came into the rearranged fixture in inconsistent form, having lost two of their last three games in all competitions.

But they put in a fantastic performance in France, against a Toulon side who have not lost in 17 European matches at home.

The Premiership club picked up a losing bonus point but they must now win both their remaining pool games, against Leinster and a return match against Toulon at the Rec, to stand a chance of progressing to the quarter-finals.

Pool Five standings
PlayedPoints
1Wasps414
2Toulon412
3Bath49
4Leinster42

The battle of the boot

Fly-half Ford has been struggling for form since he was dropped by England during last year's World Cup, but the 22-year-old rediscovered his confidence against Toulon - perhaps aided by his impressive partnership with Chris Cook, who was brought in at scrum-half in place of the injured Nikola Matawalu.

Ford kicked the opening penalty and landed two out of three drop-goal attempts to give his side a narrow lead in Sunday's contest.

But Toulon scrum-half Escande kept pulling the three-time champions level, and the Toulon defence held off a fired-up Bath attack as the clock ticked down in the second half.

The visitors were also forced into desperate defending. Josua Tuisova went on a blistering run only to be halted by full-back Anthony Watson, while his England team-mate Semesa Rokoduguni was on hand to clear the danger from Juan Smith out wide.

In the end, it fell to replacement Michalak to grab the winner after Bath conceded a needless penalty with five minutes left on the clock.

Post-match reaction

Bath fly-half George Ford told BBC Radio Bristol: "It's pretty devastating. To come out here and perform like that the attitude was there today and small margins in the game.

"We had good field position but little errors at the end gave them field position to kick the late penalty. I'm unbelievably proud of the boys today to put in a show like that.

"It was more like us, the feel was similar to last year, great energy and enthusiasm. We're still alive in the pool, we just need to prepare right and show up mentally."

Line-ups

Toulon: James O'Connor; Josua Tuisova, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma'a Nonu, Bryan Habana; Quade Cooper, Eric Escande; Florian Fresia, Guilhem Guirado, Levan Chilachava, Jocelino Suta, Konstantine Mikautadze, Juan Smith, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Duane Vermeulen.

Replacements: Anthony Etrillard, Xavier Chiocci, Matt Stevens, Steffon Armitage, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Mermoz, Sebastien Tillous-Borde, Thibault Lassale.

Bath: Anthony Watson; Semesa Rokoduguni, Jonathan Joseph, Kyle Eastmond, Matt Banahan; George Ford, Chris Cook; Max Lahiff, Rob Webber, David Wilson, Stuart Hooper, Dominic Day, Matt Garvey, Francois Louw, Leroy Houston.

Replacements: Ross Batty, Nathan Catt, Henry Thomas, Charlie Ewels, David Denton, Jonathan Evans, Rhys Priestland, Tom Homer.

Ref: George Clancy (IRFU).

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