Planet Rugby

Bath secure place in last eight

12th January 2008 18:22

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Matt Banahan v Leeds

Matt Banahan: A try double for Bath

Bath coach Steve Meehan celebrated his new two-year contract by guiding his side into the final eight of the European Challenge Cup.

Bath bagged a bonus-point 31-13 victory over Overmach Parma at the Italian club's Sergio Lanfranchi Stadium, and need only a win over French minnows Auch at the Rec in the final Pool One match next weekend to guarantee themselves a home match in the quarter-finals.

Winger Matt Banahan scored a try in each half, but Meehan had to wait until the 75th minute for the crucial fourth try and bonus points.

Banahan, who is 6ft 7in and tips the scales at 16 stone, muscled his way over the line for the game's opening try in the 24th minute and completed his double early in the second half.

Overmach Parma fly-half Barry Irving troubled the scorers with a couple of goals, but Olly Barkley won the battle of the kickers with four goals to finish the match with nine points.

World Cup winner Butch James scored the visitors' third try, and although replacement centre Marco Neethling gave the 1,000 home fans something to cheer about with a late score, Bath back-rower Michael Lipman secured the bonus point in the dying minutes.

In the other pool game, Auch kept their faint hopes of a quarter-final alive with a 15-13 win over Albi.

Auch trail Bath by an unreachable nine points, but have a slim chance of reaching the final eight of the as one of the three best runners-up.

They need to upset Bath next weekend and hope several other results go their way.

Flanker Nicolas Bontinck and centre Pierre Aguillon scored tries as Auch took a 12-5 lead into the half-time break, and they held on for the win, despite an Albi comeback inspired by centre Dimitri Senio and Patrice Serre.

In Pool Five, Castres Olympique kept the pressure on Leeds Carnegie with a 27-9 win at Rugby Calvisano.

Castres scored three tries and missed out on a bonus point, but moved to within two points of leaders Leeds, and host the English club in next weekend's final match.

Huge back-rower Lei Tomiki scored the game's opening try, although three penalty goals from home fly-half Gerard Fraser limited the damage to 10-9 at half time.

The French club stepped up a gear in the second half, and tries to flanker Joe Tekori and Uruguayan international Rodrigo Capo ensured a clean sweep for the Castres back-row trio.

Montpellier face Sale next weekend still harbouring hopes of securing one of the best runners-up spots, following a nervy 26-24 win at Bayonne on Saturday.

The win - thanks mainly to four goals from Argentina fly-half Federico Todeschini - takes Montpellier to 18 points.

On Sunday, Connacht went through the motions to run in nine tries past an out-classed El Salvador side and record a 66-0 win in their European Challenge Cup match.

Centre Danny Riordan wrapped up the man-of-the-match award with a hat-trick of tries, and replacement Conor McPhillips joined the fray in time to bag two late scores.

Connacht move to 14 points in Pool 3, and need to beat Brive at home next weekend to have any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals as one of the best three runners-up.

The only negative for Connacht was a yellow card for back-rower Mike McCarthy, who seemed to be punished for being used as a punching bag by three El Salvador forwards.

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