European Challenge Cup: Bath 23-35 Toulon – Hosts suffer third loss despite second-half resurgence

European Challenge Cup: Bath 23-35 Toulon - Hosts suffer third loss despite second-half resurgence

Adrien Warion’s late try extinguished Bath’s hopes of taking a losing bonus point from their 35-23 defeat
Bath: (8) 23
Tries: Gallagher 2, Hill Pens: Bailey, Francis Cons: Francis
Toulon: (15) 35
Tries: Penalty try, Salles, Kolbe, Warion Pens: Biggar 3 Cons: Biggar 2

Bath’s spirited second-half display was not enough to prevent a third straight European Challenge Cup defeat against a resolute Toulon in their rearranged game at Kingsholm.

A second-minute penalty try and another score from Thomas Salles put Toulon in early control.

Matt Gallagher’s try made it 15-8 before Cheslin Kobe tightened the French side’s grip.

Gallagher’s second and Ted Hill’s fine try gave Bath hope but Toulon held out.

It was an ultimately frustrating afternoon for Bath after Hill’s score got them to within five points, only for a Dan Biggar penalty and carelessness with a throw into their own line-out to allow Adrien Warion to score and snuff out hopes of a losing bonus point.

Defeat sees Bath drop out of the top six in Pool A, and they now need to win their final match to stand any chance of making the last 16.

Bath made the worst possible start to the game, taking place at Gloucester’s Kingsholm stadium 24 hours after the original meeting at The Rec was postponed due to flooding, giving away a penalty straight from the kick-off for not releasing.

Following a kick to the corner, the driving Toulon maul was illegally dragged down by Dave Atwood with the French side awarded a penalty-try and the lock sent to the sin bin.

A fifth-minute Orlando Bailey penalty got Bath on the board only for Toulon’s opportunism to move them further ahead as Salles sauntered in for a simple try through an over-stretched defence following a steal from a line-out.

Although Bath stood up well to Toulon’s physical pack, a series of handling errors checked their momentum when they achieved good field position.

They finally clicked inside the last 10 minutes of the half as Joe Cokanasiga made a strong break and, after Ben Spencer recycled well, Gallagher scooped up Ollie Lawrence’s brilliant grubber kick to dive in at the corner.

Bailey was unable to add the extras to bring Bath to within two points and they ended the half frustratingly when Dan Biggar’s penalty from in front of the posts nudged Toulon’s lead back to seven.

Bath began the second period well, but Bailey’s struggles from the tee continued as he missed his third kick and errors then resurfaced as Gallagher failed to release and scrum-half Jules Danglot’s tap-and-go helped send Kolbe racing in as Toulon threatened to run away with it.

But Gallagher went over after a quick tap gave him the room out wide and when Hill’s brilliant vision was rewarded when he gathered his own kick-and-chase from his 22 to score under the posts, Bath were suddenly within five points and in sight of a famous win.

Another Biggar penalty edged Toulon’s lead back to eight and, although replacement kicker Piers Francis replied immediately, Bath’s lack of precision cost them at the death when hooker Niall Annett’s throw at a line-out went over the jump of Tom Ellis and into the arms of Warion who collapsed over the line to seal victory.

Biggar’s extras added some gloss to the scoreline as Toulon’s third win moved them up to second in Pool A, level on points with Cardiff and put them into the last 16.

Bath head coach Johann van Graan told BBC Radio Bristol:

“We are getting so much better, we are creating opportunities and put them under huge pressure.

“But a game is 80 minutes long and if you take out the first minute and the last minute, we win a game in Europe.

“It’s small margins and I can’t fault the effort, they fought against a very big pack very well, something that in the previous round [of matches] didn’t go well [when Toulon won 29-7].

“I thought we played brilliantly, the try off the kick was class – so many positives, but incredible frustration at losing that game.”

Bath: Gallagher; Cokanasiga, Lawrence, Redpath, McConnochie; Bailey, B Spencer; Morozov, Dunn, Rae, Atwood, Lee-Warner, Hill, Underhill, Bayliss.

Replacements: Annett, Boyce, Jonker, W Spencer, Reid, Schreuder, Francis, Cloete.

Toulon: Salles; Kolbe, Paia’aua, Rabut, Luc; Biggar, Serin; Priso, Baubigny, Gigashvili, Halagahu, Alainu’uese, Lakafia, Ollivon, Coulon.

Replacements: Etrillard, Devaux, Brookes, Warion, Parisse, Danglot, West, Wainiqolo

Referee: Chris Busby

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