European Champions Cup: Toulon 24-20 Bath

Ma'a Nonu
Former New Zealand centre Ma'a Nonu scored Toulon's first-half try
European Rugby Champions Cup
Toulon (7) 24
Tries: Nonu, Mathewson, Belleau Cons: Trinh-Duc 3 Pen: Trinh-Duc
Bath (13) 20
Tries: Watson, Joseph Cons: Priestland 2 Pens: Priestland 2

Bath were denied a historic victory over Toulon at the Stade Mayol by a late try from replacement fly-half Anthony Belleau.

Bath led by six points at the break but with Chris Cook in the sin bin, Alby Mathewson pounced to put Toulon ahead.

Jonathan Joseph then pounced on a poor kick by Chris Ashton but Belleau collected his own kick to win it.

Toulon move above Bath to lead the pool by three points before their visit to the Recreation Ground next weekend.

The French side have only lost once, against Saracens last season, in their past 23 European ties at home.

Bath were trying to win their opening three games in the competition for the first time since 2005-06, and they came agonisingly close against an out-of-sorts Toulon.

The big-spending French side are struggling for form - they lie seventh in the Top 14 - and had only won one game in their past four in all competitions.

Bath controlled the game from the start and Aled Brew's rampaging run down the left wing set up Anthony Watson for the first try, despite a hint of a forward pass from Joseph in the build-up.

Toulon looked dangerous, though, and with numbers out wide, Mathieu Bastareaud flicked the ball to Ma'a Nonu in the face of the onrushing Joseph as Toulon clawed their way back.

Rhys Priestland added a second penalty of the half to give Bath a well-deserved half-time lead, but the home side set up camp on the Bath try-line after the break.

Chris Ashton
Chris Ashton has switched from wing to full-back this season for Toulon

The visitors lost returning Wales forward Taulupe Faletau to injury just 10 minutes after the interval and when Cook, on his 100th appearance for Bath, was sent to the sin bin, Mathewson crossed from the back of the scrum.

Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder said after the game the injury did not look good for Faletau.

Bath found themselves ahead again, in fortunate fashion, after a loose Toulon line-out was mopped up by Ashton, who ran across his own line before a horrible sliced kick fell handily to Joseph to score under the posts.

The 30-year-old has scored 13 tries in 11 games in the Top 14 this season but he looked uncomfortable all afternoon in his new position of full-back and his moment of madness was almost a costly error.

With 10 minutes to play, Ashton came close to redeeming himself but his initial stretch for the line was short and after a lengthy look from the TMO, it was ruled inconclusive.

The former Saracens player was then saved by a Francois Trinh-Duc penalty and a moment of magic from 21-year-old Belleau, who stabbed a speculative kick through before collecting well to secure the victory.

Bath still had time to win it but fly-half Rhys Priestland failed to find touch and kicked the ball dead from his penalty, but Todd Blackadder's side did claim a losing bonus point.

Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder said: "We came here to do a job and when you put in so much effort, and the game was there for the taking, you are a little bit disappointed.

"But we will build on that and we will be better next week. This pool is going to be wide open. I am really proud of my guys. We came to play and we did.

"It was an outstanding effort and I'm really encouraged by it and feel really positive for next week. Everyone really stepped up and delivered."

Chris Ashton
Chris Ashton tweeted his thanks to his team-mates for ensuring his kick was just a embarrassing effort rather than a match-defining error
CHAMPIONS CUP POOL 5
TeamPlayedWonDrawnLostForAgainstBonus PtsPoints
Toulon33007569012
Bath3201613719
Scarlets3102666737
Benetton3002578633

Toulon: Ashton; Tuisova, Bastareaud (c), Nonu, Radradra; Trinh-Duc, Mathewson; Fresia, Guirado, Chilachava, Manoa, Taofifenua, Fernandez Lobbe, Lakafia, Vermeulen.

Replacements: Etrillard, Chiocci, Van Der Merwe, Isa, Belleau, Pietersen, Meric, Kruger.

Bath: Watson; Brew, Joseph, Tapuai, Banahan; Priestland, Cook; Obano, Dunn, Lahiff, Stooke, Charteris, Garvey (c), Grant, Faletau.

Replacements: Van Vuuren, Auterac, Thomas, Ewels, Mercer, Fotuali'i, Burns, Wilson.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)

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