Toulon battle past Bath

Date published: January 10 2016

Toulon edged a tight battle with Bath at the Stade Felix Mayol on Sunday, eventually winning 12-9 in the Champions Cup.

George Ford and Éric Escande matched each other in this one, the kickers both sending through nine points in an incredibly tight affair.

But with just minutes to play, Toulon replacement Frédéric Michalak scored a vital three pointer to seal a 12-9 victory for Toulon.

The rearranged Champions Cup tie at the Stade Felix Mayol was always going to be an intriguing one, with this the first time that Toulon and Bath have met.

With an intimidating home record behind Toulon, one positive for Bath to take pre-game was the way Wasps dismantled them earlier this season. And inside three minutes, the English side took an early lead from Ford's penalty, sending it through from an easy position.

Bath followed that up with an attack deep into Toulon territory, but when they were unable to make any more ground, it spawned the equaliser – Escande firing through the posts to level in a very even first half.

But Bath deservedly struck next through Ford, who had as much time as he wanted to pick his spot as he sent through a well hit drop goal to give Bath back the lead.

Escande could have pulled Toulon level again a couple of moments later, but swung a kick to the right hand side of the posts and wide.

Not that he had to wait too much longer, scoring before the break to ensure they went in all square at half-time.

But in this battle between the two kickers, Ford again edged in front through another drop goal. It all came after he kicked for touch, and the number ten restored the three-point lead when it fell back into his path.

Yet again Escande was on hand just two minutes later to level. And Bath were nearly forced to come from behind for the first time, but after cutting apart the Bath defence, Habana couldn't be found from a pass and Bath were able to regroup.

They had opportunities to edge back into the lead. After a spell where they had Toulon penned deep into their own territory, Bath found themselves five metres out, but they couldn't get any closer as the ball edged out of play.

Ford was again at the heart of things, and narrowly sent his third drop goal attempt wide as he looked to single handedly drag the score up again.

Despite pressure, the visitors couldn't turn it into points, and Toulon made them pay.

This time it was Michalak who took the penalty, emerging from the bench to send through a vital kick with just five minutes to play, extending Toulon's incredible home record.

Mike Ford's side didn't really have sufficient time to come back from that Michalak kick, and they returned back to England on the back of the narrowest of 12-9 defeats.

The scorers:

For Toulon:
Pens: Escande 3, Michalak

For Bath:
Pen: Ford
Drop Goals: Ford 2

Toulon: 15 James O'Connor, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Eric Escande, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6 Juan Smith, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Levan Chilachava,  2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Florian Fresia
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Steffon Armitage, 20 Frédéric Michalak, 21 Maxime Mermoz, 22 Sébastien Tillous-Borde, 23 Thibault Lassale

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Nick Auterac
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Max Lahiff, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Charlie Ewels, 20 David Denton, 21 Jonathan Evans 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Tom Homer

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Mark Connolly (Ireland)
TMO: Alan Rogan (Ireland)