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Rugby | Champions Cup

Charlie Ewels © Gallo Images

Bath hold off spirited Toulon

Bath moved to the top of pool five after securing a 26-21 victory over Toulon in a thrilling encounter at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.

Both sides deserve plenty of credit for playing their part in making this the entertaining spectacle that it was, but the home side were deserved winners in the end and they eventually outscored their visitors three tries to two.

The win means that both these sides have 13 points after four matches played but Bath occupy first position courtesy of a superior points difference while the Scarlets are in third spot with 12 points.

Bath made a great start when, from the kick-off, Aled Brew did well to knock the ball backwards from under the nose of Josua Tuisova.

The home side took the ball through the phases with Brew, Elliott Stooke and Ben Tapuai prominent ball carriers before Beno Obano ran onto a pass from Chris Cook and crashed over for the opening try, despite the attentions of two defenders.

Priestland slotted the conversion and added a penalty, after Ma'a Nonu infringed at a ruck, which meant Bath held a 10-point lead in the 10th minute.

Bath continued to dominate as the half progressed and came close to scoring another try in the 12th minute after taking the ball through 19 phases from deep inside their own half.

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Nonu was penalised again - this time for straying offside on defence during that impressive period of play from Bath - and Priestland made no mistake from the tee to further extend his side's lead.

Toulon seemed shell-shocked but struck back in the 18th minute when Alby Mathewson made a superb break around the front of a lineout inside Bath's 22 before crossing for a deserved try.

Francois Trinh-Duc added the extras and narrowed the gap to three points when he kicked a penalty after Bath were blown up for collapsing a scrum.

Three minutes later, the home side regained the initiative when Anthony Watson gathered an inside pass from Jonathan Joseph and set off on a mazy run before crossing for a deserved try.

Priestland failed with the conversion attempt and another Trinh-Duc penalty in the 36th minute - after offside play from Matt Garvey - kept the visitors in the match.

But Bath would finish the half stronger and once again it was Watson who played a leading role when he showed a superb turn of speed to round Duane Vermeulen and Tuisova before diving over in the left-hand corner.

Priestland's conversion attempt was off target but Bath had their tails up at halftime with the score 23-13 in their favour.

Toulon needed to score soon after the restart and they did just that, three minutes into the half when Nonu made a telling break before getting a pass out to Chris Ashton, who was brought to ground inside Bath's 22. Ashton did well to free his arms and offload to Guilhem Guirado before he passed to Samu Manoa, who rounded off in the left-hand corner.

That meant Bath held a five-point lead again and the rest of the half became an attritional affair as both sides went in search of victory.

Bath extended their lead in the 56th minute when Priestland added another penalty after Toulon were blown up for being offside on defence deep inside their half.

Shortly afterwards, the home side thought they had secured a try-scoring bonus point when Jack Wilson crossed the whitewash after a 40-metre sprint, but his effort was disallowed after television replays revealed that the final pass from Paul Grant to Wilson was forward.

Toulon upped the ante on attack as they tried to haul in their hosts and in the 65th minute Trinh-Duc slotted another penalty after Charlie Ewels was penalised for going off his feet at a ruck.

The final 15 minutes was a frantic affair with both Trinh-Duc and Priestland off target with penalty attempts.

Toulon gave their all as the game drew to a close and were camped inside Bath's 22 during the game's closing stages, but they were kept at bay by a resilient defensive effort from the home side.


Bath - Tries: Obano, Watson 2. Conversion: Priestland. Penalties: Priestland 3

Toulon - Tries: Mathewson, Manoa. Conversion: Trinh-Duc. Penalties: Trinh-Duc 3


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