Bath Rugby came within a whisker of securing an impressive European Champions Cup victory at Toulon on a dramatic Saturday for Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs.
Bath were trying to win their opening three games in the competition for the first time since 2005-06 and scored fine tries through their England internationals Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph.
Only Saracens have gone to the Stade Felix Mayol and won in Europe, but it looked like Todd Blackadder’s side might join them.
However, replacement fly-half Anthony Belleau collected his own grubber to dot down the decisive score and despite some late pressure, Toulon held on for the 24-20 victory.
A huge thank you to the @bathrugby supporters that made their way out to Toulon. See you next weekend back at the Rec for the return fixture 🔵⚫️⚪️
— Bath Rugby (@bathrugby) December 9, 2017
But Todd Blackadder’s side welcome the French powerhouses – and three-times champions of Europe – back to the Rec next weekend for the reverse fixtures full of confidence.
Blackadder said: “We came here to do a job and when you put in so much effort, and the game was there for the taking, you are a little bit disappointed.
“But we will build on that and we will be better next week. This pool is going to be wide open. I am really proud of my guys. We came to play and we did.
“It was an outstanding effort and I’m really encouraged by it and feel really positive for next week. Everyone really stepped up and delivered.”
Northampton Saints’ hopes of making the knockout stages are all but at an end after their defeat to the Ospreys at Franklin’s Gardens.
In an 11-try thriller Saints – who lost Piers Francis and Stephen Myler to injury in the first half – rallied from a 43-8 deficit with 20 minutes remaining but left it too late to halt their winless run in Europe.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder said: “It is unlucky to lose your two first-choice fly-halves at the start of a big European match but generally our game wasn’t good enough.
— Northampton Saints (@SaintsRugby) December 9, 2017
“I was really pleased with the spirit in the last 20 minutes because we showed there is a good team in there somewhere, but the first 60 minutes showed a team clearly lacking in confidence.
“We saw signs of the Saints of old in the last 20 minutes, but we’re not seeing it enough.”
And Leicester Tigers went down to a bonus-point defeat at Thomond Park to Munster. It was the same result last season but they rallied to claim a win at Welford Road the week after.
And Tigers director of rugby Matt O’Connor is hoping lightning strikes twice.
“Without stating the obvious, next Sunday’s game is really important,” he said.
…we get up, we dust ourselves off and we go again❗️
— Leicester Tigers (@LeicesterTigers) December 10, 2017
“The boys are always excited at Welford Road. They play with a lot of passion there and we’re going to have to make sure that we put out a performance that gets us the result and puts us back on an even keel in the group.
“We have made some good strides, but we have to make sure that we fix it this week.”
Meanwhile, in the Challenge Cup Newcastle Falcons turned on the style at Kingston Park.
They ran in eight tries in all – including a double for Adam Radwan – as Bordeaux Begles were put to the sword in a 52-24 defeat.
Sale Sharks strengthened their position in Pool 2 with a 24-0 win over Cardiff Blues while in Pool 3 Gloucester Rugby had to hold off a late Zebre fight back to continue their winning run 33-26.
Elsewhere, London Irish shipped 50 points in defeat to Edinburgh while Worcester Warriors were too strong for Oyonnax at Sixways, winning 35-14.
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