European Rugby Champions Cup 2014-15

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European Rugby Champions Cup
Toulouse edge past Bath
ESPN Staff
October 25, 2014
Report Match details
Date/Time: Oct 25, 2014, 15:15 local, 14:15 GMT
Venue: Recreation Ground, Bath
Bath Rugby 19 - 21 Toulouse
Half-time: 6 - 7
Tries: Batty
Cons: Ford
Pens: Ford 3
Drops: Ford
Tries: Clerc, Harinordoquy, Medard
Cons: Flood 2, McAlister
Toulouse's Vincent Clerc dots the ball down, Bath Rugby v Toulouse, European Rugby Champions Cup, Recreation Ground, Bath, October 25, 2014
Vincent Clerc got the ball rolling for Toulouse
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Toulouse beat a spirited Bath side 21-19 at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.

After being crushed by Glasgow last weekend, Bath knew that any realistic hope of keeping themselves in the Pool Four qualification picture hinged them on flooring the French heavyweights.

But Toulouse had other ideas as tries by wing Vincent Clerc, flanker Imanol Harinordoquy and full-back Maxime Medard, plus conversions from England international Toby Flood (two) and Luke McAlister, secured a 21-19 success and left Bath with little chance of progressing.

England squad fly-half George Ford kicked three penalties, a drop-goal and conversion of substitute hooker Ross Batty's late try for Bath, yet they came up agonisingly short, with a losing bonus point meaning little.

Given Bath's long injury list, especially in the back-row department, it represented a fine display in adversity. Their only realistic hope of progressing, though, is to win the last four group games, but that schedule includes trips to Montpellier and Toulouse, suggesting the 1998 European champions will end up making an early exit.

A rib injury sidelined Bath's England centre Kyle Eastmond, so Ollie Devoto partnered Jonathan Joseph in midfield, and number eight Charlie Ewels made his full debut alongside back-row colleagues Dominic Day and David Sisi. Four-time European champions Toulouse, meanwhile, fielded former Leicester fly-half Flood in the playmaker role behind a juggernaut pack headlined by skipper Thierry Dusautoir, Harinordoquy, Census Johnston and Louis Picamoles.

Bath had claimed a solitary victory from four previous European encounters against Toulouse, and the west country club knew they had to improve that sequence in pursuit of a Champions Cup quarter-final place following their heavy defeat against Glasgow. Despite going into the game as underdogs, Bath made a strong start, establishing immediate territorial supremacy and showcasing a dominant scrum that resulted in a fifth-minute penalty chance for Ford which he duly kicked from 45 metres.

Toulouse, though, did not take long to stir, and after some powerful approach work by lock Yoann Maestri the visitors created sufficient space out wide for centre Florian Fritz to send Clerc scampering over. It was Clerc's 36th try in top-flight European competition - an ongoing record and three more than next-best Brian O'Driscoll - with Flood's successful touchline conversion putting Bath 7-3 behind.

But Bath were not ruffled, and, after Flood missed a penalty, the home side moved back upfield and established enough of a foothold for Ford to land a drop-goal and leave them just one point adrift as half-time approached. They did enjoy a let-off when only England squad centre Joseph's superb defensive work denied Toulouse wing Yoann Huget a breakaway try after Devoto kicked possession straight to him, yet Bath had given themselves a fighting chance, trailing just 7-6 at the break after Flood missed another straightforward penalty attempt.

And it got better for the home side within five minutes of the restart as Ford's second successful penalty after Toulouse were punished for failing to roll away from a ruck put Bath two points clear. Toulouse head coach Guy Noves made two quickfire double substitutions after the break, and fresh legs made an immediate difference as the visitors found fresh impetus and Harinordoquy was gifted a simple finish, touching down for a try that Flood converted.

But once again, Toulouse were unable to move up a gear after forging a lead, and another Ford penalty left Bath just two points adrift with 25 minutes of the contest still remaining. It was a not a classic by any means, yet the game's attritional nature and a stubborn refusal by Bath not to go quietly kept a capacity 13,360 crowd enthralled.

With 15 minutes to go, though, Toulouse appeared to make the game safe when Bath ran out of defensive numbers and Harinordoquy acted as a link-man for a simple Medard try. McAlister added the extras after Flood had gone off injured, and a brave, battling Bath performance had seemingly reached its conclusion.

The home side pressed for a try as the clock ticked down, but substitute Olly Woodburn was narrowly denied a score when his foot brushed the touchline before Batty powered over under a pile of bodies and Ford's conversion set up a frantic final five minutes. But Toulouse possessed enough big-game nous to close the game out and ensure they left the west country with four priceless points.

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