Belleau breaks Bath hearts as Toulon march on
There was despair for Bath at the Stade Mayol as they succumbed to a late try by Anthony Belleau and leave France with a solitary point. Having matched the hosts throughout the game Bath will rue not being able to finish off the game.
The first half Bath showed adventure and attacked from all over the pitch and really showed their ambition which was a joy to watch for any Bath supporter. The wingers Matt Banahan and Aled Brew were both causing chaos for their opposite numbers and had the edge over them most of the afternoon, and it was no surprise that the first try came through some wizardry from Brew having received a beautifully measured pass from Jonathan Joseph to smartly offload to Anthony Watson who had a simple run in. Priestland having earlier despatched a penalty finished off the conversion to take Bath into a 10 point lead.
Having been under pressure for the majority of the first half, Toulon lit up the pitch in the 33rd minute as Bath’s defence was stretched through quick interplay and All Black centre Ma’a Nonu didn’t disappoint the home supporters as they scored their first points of the match. Bath continued to rally and got their reward at the end of the first half with a penalty that Welshman Rhys Priestland duly finished as Bath took a 7-13 lead into half time.
Toulon stepped up the intensity in the early part of the second half as they looked to take control of the match and with consistent infringements, Bath scrum half Chris Cook, celebrating his 100th appearance saw a yellow card. Toulon made him pay immediately as his wily counter part scrum half Alby Mathewson picked up the ball from the base of the scrum and avoided the tackle of Priestland as he dived over the try line and with Francois Trinh-Duc supplying the conversion, Toulon were now in front 14-13.
With the ascendency, Toulon again found themselves behind, after a horror slice kick from ex-England international Chris Ashton who kicked straight into the path of Jonathan Joseph who had the simplest of finishes and take the score to 14-20. Toulon kept pressing and Bath were tackling for their lives and Paul Grant heroically denied Chris Ashton making up for his earlier error by stopping him just short of the line.
Much to the pain of the loud and proud Bath supporters, the team couldn’t keep out Toulon, with wave after wave of attacks an ingenuous kick from replacement fly-half Anthony Belleau the ball bounced up favourable and he cantered over the line to take the score to 24-20. With only a few minutes remaining Bath couldn’t find the elusive try to get the win as the clock ticked over 80 minutes.
Bath were not given a hope by most pundits, but they can take great heart from the performance and look forward to next’s weekend showdown against Toulon at the Rec with optimism and a real possibility of pulling off a great win.