Another Heineken Cup epic! Stade FranÃ§ais snuffed out a fine effort from Bath on Sunday, with a last-gasp penalty sealing a 29-27 win.
Another Heineken Cup epic! Stade FranÃ§ais snuffed out a fine effort from Bath on Sunday, with a last-gasp penalty sealing a 29-27 win at the Rec.
It has been a weekend for fine French comebacks and the Parisians carried the torch into the final fixture of the round, coming back from 21-12 at the break to seal the deal with a 40-metre penalty from Julien Dupuy in the last minute of the game.
The visitors' slow start very nearer cost them dear, but they can't be accused of not doing their homework. They would have studied tapes of the Bath that sleepwalked into the season and thought the trip a breeze. Trouble was, that team didn't show up today.
The return of Nicky Little, standing flat and aggressive all afternoon, galvanised the Bath attack, allowing them to play to their strengths. The locals' plan was as simple as it was effective: get it out to Matt Banahan. The cowed Parisians simply had no answers to the big man's marauding runs.
But Stade FranÃ§ais are nothing if not clever. They controlled the play in the second half, keeping Bath far from their sticks and cutting off Banahan's supply of ball at source. A breakaway try from England Sevens stalwart Ollie Phillips and the boot of Dupuy did the rest.
Stade FranÃ§ais, resplendent in shocking pink, tore into the game. But for a knock-on, they would have scored a try in the opening minute of the game.
But as an agenda-setting gambit it paled in comparison to what came next: a sublime 40-metre drop-goal from Lionel Beauxis.
Despite the stunned silence of the local crowd, Bath responded well, working the ball through the hands, forcing the French to kill the ball in defence. Little stepped up and levelled the scores off the tee.
Julien Dupuy responded in kind as the 20-minute mark approached, and again Bath bounced back with aplomb, with Little beginning to pull the strings, sending his big backs into the gaps. The sea parted for Shontayne Hape and the centre was able to offload to his fly-half who bundled over for a try.
He failed to convert, but he was to get another bite at the same cherry moments later after a wonderful miss-pass from Banahan sent Matt Carraro over for Bath's second try.
Suddenly Bath had their tails up and the Parisians were ruffled. Very ruffled. Needless errors and several tantrums allowed Little to extend the lead with two successful shies at goal, but Dupuy also managed to eke out two penalties of his own to leave the half-time scored poised at 21-12 in favour of the locals.
A big comeback performance was needed from Stade FranÃ§ais, but Parisian efforts to engineer an escape where dealt a blow early in the second half when Pascal Pape was sin-binned for kicking the ball out of Michael Claassens's mitts.
The numerical handicap wasn't to last the full ten minutes, however. Banahan soon joined Pape on the sidelines for a high tackle on Mirco Bergamasco. Dupuy, no stranger to these parts, stepped up to bring his new side within a converted try of their hosts with 25 minutes to play.
A war of attrition followed, with nerves getting the better of both sides as the clock ticked down.
Penalties were exchanged either side of the 70-minute mark and it looked like Bath might keep their noses in front.
Alas, it was not to be.
From a deep and innocuous position, the French worked the ball wide and Phillips stood up Nick Abendanon before rounding him to dot down.
Dupuy was unable to add the extras and it looked like Bath might get away with it.
But a shrill blast from George Clancy's whistle alerted the crowd to one final Bath misdemeanour at the breakdown, and Dupuy called for his tee.
Tries: Little, Carraro
Pens: Little 5
For Stade FranÃ§ais:
Pens: Dupuy 7
Yellow card(s): Pape (Stade FranÃ§ais) – playing the ball on the ground, 44; Banahan (Bath) – high tackle, 53.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Nicky Little, 9 Michael Claassens (c), 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Jonny Fa'amatuainu, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 David Barnes, 18 David Wilson, 19 Peter Short, 20 Chris Cracknell, 21 Scott Bemand, 22 Ryan Davis, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Stade FranÃ§ais: 15 Hugo Southwell, 14 Julien Arias, 13 Guillaume Bousses, 12 Geoffroy Messina, 11 Mark Gasnier, 10 Lionel Beauxis, 9 Julien Dupuy, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Pierre Rabadan, 6 James Haskell, 5 Pascal Pape, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 David Attoub, 2 Dimitri Szarzewski, 1 Rodrigo Roncero (c).
Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Damien Weber, 18 Rayno Gerber, 19 Arnaud Marchois, 20 Mathieu Blin, 21 Noel Oelschig, 22 Mirco Bergamasco, 23 Ollie Phillips.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Simon McDowell (Ireland), Michael Black (Ireland)
Television match official: John Sheehan (Ireland)
Assessor: Jim Fleming (Scotland)