European Champions Cup: Bath 32-12 Montpellier

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Sam Burgess watches on as Matt Banahan score Bath's first try on Friday against Montpellier
An inadvertent kick pass from Sam Burgess (centre) set up Matt Banahan's first try
Bath (17) 32
Tries: Banahan 3, Agulla Cons: Ford 3 Pens: Ford 2
Montpellier (0) 12
Tries: Tulou, Ivaldi Con: Paillaugue

Sam Burgess set up a try, albeit inadvertently, within two minutes of his first rugby union start but Matt Banahan stole the limelight in Bath's Champions Cup win over Montpellier.

Banahan scored the first two tries of his hat-trick inside 13 minutes.

George Ford's boot gave Bath a 17-0 half-time lead and Banahan soon completed his treble.

Alex Tulou and Mickael Ivaldi replied for Montpellier but Horacio Agulla's try secured a bonus point for Bath.

The win moves them up to second in Pool Four, having played a game more than Toulouse and Glasgow, and with games still to come against those sides, who both beat Bath earlier in the tournament, qualification for the quarter-finals still looks a very tough task.

The build-up to the game had been dominated by former rugby league star Burgess making his first start for Bath after two appearances off the bench.

And the 25-year-old acquitted himself well, although there were moments - such as being stripped of the ball after carrying into contact too high and kicking with men outside him with the Montpellier defence fractured - that belied his novice status.

Matt Banahan dives over to complete his hat-trick
Giant winger Matt Banahan had a fine all-round game in addition to his hat-trick of tries

However, his thunderous tackling and robust ball carrying were in evidence and the smile on his face after he helped earn a turnover suggests he is relishing the different challenges posed by the ruck and maul.

Burgess made an immediate impact, although not in the way he might have imagined as a tricky pass from Leroy Houston cannoned off his knee and into the hands of Banahan.

The giant winger - at 6ft 7in, two inches taller than Burgess - had an unopposed canter to the line.

Fly-half Ford converted and soon added a penalty after Burgess hammered into midfield for the first time and Montpellier infringed.

The former rugby league star arrived at Bath with a broken cheekbone sustained in a heroic NRL Grand Final performance and there was a worrying moment when he got back to his feet prodding at his face, but after sustained poking about he concluded all was well.

Bath added a second score after 13 minutes when Semesa Rokoduguni made a searing break through midfield and 20-year-old Anthony Watson - the man who replaced him in the England team in November - sent Banahan over for his second of the night with a fine pass.

The mighty Banahan completed his hat-trick soon after the interval but a bonus point looked unlikely as Montpellier roused themselves and twice scored from driving mauls.

However, with the final whistle looming Argentina winger Agulla cut a superb line and sliced through the Montpellier midfield off Ford's pass to score Bath's fourth try and secure the bonus point.

Sam Burgess gestures during the win over Montpellier
Sam Burgess was keen to make his point on his first start since moving to Bath from rugby league

Sam Burgess on his first rugby union start:

"I've got mixed feelings. There are things I can improve on but I'm happy with some aspects of the game. To get a full 80 was good. I'm looking forward to reviewing the game and seeing where I can improve.

"It's the first 80 minutes of hopefully a few more and I will take a lot from the game.

"Certainly it's harder than I thought, but it's a game I've never played before. I thought they [league and union] would be very similar in a lot of ways but they are actually not.

"It's been a great challenge and although it's been hard, it's been enjoyable."

Horacio Agulla celebrates his try for Bath
Horacio Agulla knew he was going to score when he was still 10m from the line
Bath players, including Anthony Watson and Matt Banahan, mob try scorer Horacio Agulla
The Argentina winger's try - Bath's fourth - earned what could yet prove to be a vital bonus point
Bath flanker Francois Louw passes the ball
South Africa flanker Francois Louw came through his first Bath game of the season after injury

Bath: Watson; Rokoduguni, Joseph, Burgess, Banahan; Ford, Cook; James, Batty, Wilson, Day, Attwood, Faosiliva, Louw, Houston.

Replacements: Agulla for Rokoduguni (67), Young for Cook (60), Auterac for James (52), Webber for Batty (52), Thomas for Wilson (52), Hooper for Attwood (9), Sisi for Faosiliva (74).

Not Used: Devoto.

Montpellier: Berard; Artru, Ebersohn, W Olivier, Viriviri; Selponi, Pelissie; Leleimalefaga, Geli, Cilliers, Tchale-Watchou, Privat, Ouedraogo, Qera, Tulou.

Replacements: Sicard for Berard (67), Ranger for Ebersohn (32), Paillaugue for Selponi (49), Watremez for Leleimalefaga (41), Ivaldi for Geli (64), Attoub for Cilliers (58), Donnelly for Privat (49), Bias for Qera (49).

Sin Bin: Paillaugue (53).

Ref: Marius Mitrea (Italy).

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