Biarritz booked their place in the Heineken Cup knockout stages with a four-try 26-19 win over Bath at Parc des Sports d'Aguilera.
Biarritz secured their place in the Heineken Cup knockout stages with a four-try 26-19 win over Bath at Parc des Sports d'Aguilera on Saturday.
Last year's finalists were classy from the off on home soil as they enjoyed the ideal conditions a great deal more than that of Belfast seven days ago. Iain Balshaw looked back to his best, Dimitri Yachvili was constantly probing and Imanol Harinordoquy led his forward pack superbly.
Balshaw had definitely lifted his game against his former charges and was a decent outlet for BO, who may be kicking themselves for losing at basement dwellers Aironi earlier in the Pool. Had they won that clash, a home quarter-final would have been a given. As it is they must now wait.
The game itself was an entertaining affair that saw the hosts turn down a number of opportunities to add three points to their tally – it was clear from minute one that they were hunting just one thing. It didn't take them long to get into their stride too, albeit courtesy of a mistake from Olly Barkley. England's forgotten centre was guilty of taking too much time clearing his lines and the opportunistic scrum-half Yachvili was only too happy to charge-down before collecting and strolling over on nine minutes. His conversion took the scores to 7-0.
As mentioned, Balshaw was electric and the provider of Biarritz's second score which came after nice inter-play down the left wing before the former Recreation Ground favourite showed his searing speed to avoid South African Michael Claassen's best efforts.
Biarritz were dominating possession and forced Bath down to 14 men when prop Duncan Bell was yellow carded for not binding at the scrum close to his own line.
However, Bath actually improved despite being a man light, and they put together a few decent phases of possession before moving under the shadow of the posts, but Biarritz fended off the threat as the whistle blew for half time.
Steve Meehan's side were caught cold at the start of the second half, with Biarritz scoring a third try of the match and a second for Balshaw, with Yachvili's conversion making it 21-0 and all-but ending the contest already.
Bath however, once back to 15 men, offered up some firm resistance and Stuart Hooper crashed over from for a try after some concerted pressure from the English side, but Olly Barkley missed the extras to make it just a five-point visit.
American flyer Takudzwa Ngwenya then grabbed the all-important fourth try and bonus point as he collected Marcelo Bosch's pass following a scrum, and the muscular winger was never going to be stopped as he powered over the line.
Bath continued to press as BO lifted their foot off the gas, and Nick Abendanon's clever offload from the floor allowed Tom Biggs to score a second try for the visitors five minutes from time, but it was a mere afterthought as Biarritz moved onto the knockout stages.
Man-of-the-match: It was the usual suspects for Biarritz as Dimitri Yachvili and Imanol Harinordoquy shone, but the award has to go to Iain Balshaw for his two well-taken tries.
Tries: Yachvili, Balshaw 2, Ngwenya
Con: Yachvili 3
Tries: Hooper, Biggs 2
Con: Vesty 2
Biarritz: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Damien Traille, 11 Iain Balshaw, 10 Julien Peyrelongue, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Raphael Lakafia, 7 Imanol Harinordoquy, 6 Samiu Vahafolau, 5 Erik Lund, 4 Pelu Taele, 3 Sylvain Marconnet, 2 Benoit August, 1 Eduard Coetzee.
Replacements: 16 Romain Terrain, 17 Yvan Watremez, 18 Eusebio Guinazu, 19 JÃ©rÃ´me Thion, 20 Benoit Guyot, 21 Yann Lesgourgues , 22 Arnaud Mignardi, 23 Ilikena Bolakoro.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Olly Barkley, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Tom Biggs, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Luke Watson, 6 Simon Taylor, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 David Wilson, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Duncan Bell.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 David Flatman, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Ignacio Fernadez Lobbe, 20 Josh Ovens, 21 Mark McMillan, 22 Sam Vesty, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Kevin Beggs (Ireland)
Television match official: Sean Flannery (Ireland)