European Champions Cup: Toulouse 18-35 Bath

By James StandleyBBC Sport
Toulouse second row Yoann Maestri is tackled by Bath centre Jonathan Joseph and flanker Matt Garvey
Bath coped well with the power of the Toulouse pack, typified by the likes of lock Yoann Maestri
Toulouse (15) 18
Tries: Maestri, Huget Cons: Flood Pens: Flood 2
Bath (25) 35
Tries: Banahan, Cook, Joseph, Louw Cons: Ford 3 Pens: Ford 3

Bath kept their European Champions Cup hopes alive as a dazzling first-half display set up a bonus-point victory away to Pool Four leaders Toulouse.

Bath claimed superb tries through Matt Banahan, Chris Cook and Jonathan Joseph to lead 25-15 at the break, Yoann Huget and Yoann Maestri scoring for Toulouse.

The second half was much tighter, with Toulouse's ex-England fly-half Toby Flood cutting the lead with a penalty.

But Joseph set up a brilliant converted try for Francois Louw to see Bath home.

The win moves Bath up to second in the table, one point behind leaders Toulouse, who travel to bottom side Montpellier in their final game next Sunday, while Bath host Glasgow, who beat them back in the first match of the tournament.

European Champions Cup Pool Four

Glasgow are only a point further back and two teams seem likely to go through from the pool, as one of the best runners-up spots looks well within reach of whoever finishes second.

Bath have been increasingly impressive in the English Premiership this season, and after losing their first two matches in the Champions Cup - including at home to Toulouse - they have found a rich vein of form.

Their pack fronted up to the massive Toulouse eight - by the end they were driving them back in scrums at will - and the visitors' adventure put the French giants on the back foot from the first whistle.

Bath scored their first try after seven minutes as a typically crisp passing move, with dummy runners sowing confusion in the home defence, created the chance for South Africa flanker Louw to send the 6ft 7in Banahan striding over.

Within two minutes Toulouse second row Maestri was driven over for a converted score but when the hosts threatened again in the Bath 22, visiting scrum-half Cook saw what was coming, intercepted Jean-Marc Doussain's long pass and had the pace to race 80m to score.

Matt Banahan scores for Bath despite the attempted tackle of Toulouse full-back Maxime Medard
Matt Bahanan finished off a fine move to set Bath on their way to victory

Within a minute the visitors were running rampant from deep in their half once again and Kyle Eastmond made a searing 40m break before feeding Banahan, who rode the tackles of two covering defenders to slip the ball inside to Joseph to finish off a scintillating try.

They almost repeated the feat a couple of minutes later but Anthony Watson was held up over the line after another length-of-the-field attack, but with England fly-half George Ford converting two of the tries and adding two penalties, Bath held a scarcely-believable 25-7 lead with barely half an hour on the clock.

Four-time champions Toulouse gave themselves some hope as France winger Huget - later to embarrass himself with a shameful dive - rounded Horacio Agulla to score a fine solo try, and when Flood landed a penalty soon after half-time the lead was down to seven points.

However, although Bath were not producing the attacking pyrotechnics of the first half, their defence was impressive and they came to life in the final stages to score a fourth try and secure the bonus point.

It was another fantastic score, with England contender Joseph reclaiming his acute grubber kick and beating two men to set up Louw to dive over, and with Ford converting and adding a late penalty Bath ran out handsome winners after a quite marvellous performance.

Bath boss Mike Ford:

"That was special and it was a great result to get five points and stop them getting anything. The game was in the balance for a long while at 25-18.

"But George Ford got back to make a try-saving tackle which was really important and helped clear the pressure. Then that last break by Jonathan Joseph to set up Louw's try was just world class.

"We're in a good place at the moment. We can scrummage, we can drive and we showed again here that we can also play some great rugby."

Bath forwards Ross Batty and Leroy Houston hammer Toulouse scrum-half jean-Mac Doussain
Bath's defence was as good as their attack - here Jean-Marc Doussain feels the visitors' power
Toulouse coach Guy Noces rages on the touchline
Toulouse's four-time European Cup-winning coach Guy Noves was powerless on the touchline
Bath's players celebrate their stunning win over Toulouse
Bath's win must count as one of their finest on the road in Europe and their delight was obvious

Toulouse: Medard; Clerc, David, McAlister, Huget; Flood, Doussain; Steenkamp, Flynn, Johnston, Tekori, Maestri, Nyanga, Dustautoir, Picamoles.

Replacements: Poitrenaud for David (45), Vermaak for Flood (65), Kakovin for Steenkamp (67), Marchand for Flynn (76), Pulu for Johnston (68), Albacete for Tekori (54), Lamboley for Nyanga (74), Galan for Picamoles (67).

Bath: Watson; Agulla, Joseph, Eastmond, Banahan; Ford, Cook; James, Webber, Wilson, Day, Attwood, Garvey, Louw, Houston.

Replacements: Devoto for Watson (45), Woodburn for Eastmond (63), Stringer for Cook (73), Auterac for James (55), Batty for Webber (54), Thomas for Wilson (48), Fearns for Day (48), Hooper for Attwood (63).

Att: 18,000

Ref: George Clancy (Ireland).

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