European Rugby Champions Cup: Bath lose at home to Toulouse

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Toby Flood failed with two simple penalties at Bath
Toby Flood failed with two simple penalties at Bath but in the end the misses did not matter
Bath (6) 19
Try: Batty Con: Ford Pens: Ford 3 Drop-goal: Ford
Toulouse (7) 21
Tries: Clerc, Harinordoquy, Medard Cons: Flood 2, McAlister

Bath mounted a late fightback at the Rec but Toulouse held on to win and deal their hosts' European Rugby Champions Cup Pool Four qualification hopes a significant blow.

Vincent Clerc's converted try put Toulouse in front but two penalties and a drop-goal from George Ford meant Bath led 9-7 soon after half-time.

Toulouse hit back via converted Imanol Harinordoquy and Maxime Medard tries.

But Ross Batty's late converted try at least rescued a losing bonus point.

Bath showed plenty of endeavour but they never looked likely to win as Toulouse's power in defence and cutting edge in attack saw them to a valuable away victory.

Bath, who recalled their first-choice front row after last week's hammering in Glasgow, did have the edge in the scrum, and when they sent the massive French pack backwards as if on rails before they crumpled to the ground at the first engagement, it looked as though Toulouse might be in for a difficult afternoon.

Ford pinged the resultant penalty through the sticks but four-time champions Toulouse have shown signs of returning to form after a poor couple of years and a difficult start to the season, and they soon hit back.

Olly Woodburn is tackled by Vincent Clerc
Vincent Clerc produced a try-saving tackle on Olly Woodburn

Medard was able to send winger Clerc - the all-time leading try scorer in top-tier European competition - ambling over untouched.

Former England fly-half Flood had a mixed day with the boot, badly missing two first-half penalties to keep Bath in it, but on this occasion he converted from out wide.

Bath kept hammering away, with 20-year-old full-back Anthony Watson looking lively but never quite able to break free entirely, and a penalty and drop-goal from England squad member Ford edged them back in front soon after the restart.

But Toulouse had the upper hand at the breakdown and a turnover on the Bath 22 led to Harinordoquy finishing off another overlap as the French side swept the ball wide.

The former Biarritz and France back rower then sent full-back Medard over with a cute inside pass, and with both tries being converted the visitors had a winning lead.

Bath kept plugging away and Batty barrelled over from a driving maul, with Ford's conversion moving the hosts back within seven and a losing bonus point.

But their hopes of pulling off a stirring fightback were extinguished when Toulouse again turned over possession at a ruck as Bath attacked and launched the ball into the crowd to finish proceedings.

Bath head coach Mike Ford:

"We were very close. We were one kick away from winning the game against a team that has got 600 caps.

"The back row we put out today had not started a Premiership game in those positions, so I think it is a fantastic performance.

"The boys have got no regrets. They left everything on the field."

Toulouse captain Thierry Dusautoir:

"We should have been better today, but we have got two wins out of two, which is very important in the European Cup.

"It wasn't perfect, but four weeks ago we had five losses in the Top 14, so we can be really happy with what we did today."

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Devoto, Agulla; Ford, Cook; James, Webber, Wilson, Hooper, Attwood, Day, Sisi, Ewels.

Replacements: Henson for Devoto (68), Woodburn for Agulla (72), Stringer for Cook (48), Catt for James (76), Batty for Webber (56), Thomas for Wilson (60), Mercer for Sisi (54). Not Used: Ellis.

Toulouse: Medard; Clerc, Fritz, McAlister, Huget; Flood, Bezy; Steenkamp, Flynn, Johnston, Maestri, Albacete, Dustautoir, Harinordoquy, Picamoles.

Replacements: Matanavou for Huget (44), Vermaak for Flood (68), Baille for Steenkamp (48), Marchand for Flynn (79), Pulu for Johnston (62), Tekori for Albacete (45), Nyanga for Dustautoir (76), Maka for Picamoles (48).

Attendance: 13,360

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)