Banahan shines as Bath thump Montpellier

Former England winger Matt Banahan scored a hat-trick of tries as Bath thumped French side Montpellier 32-12 in their Rugby Champions Cup match at The Recreation Ground.

Banahan scored the first two of his three tries in under thirteen minutes but then after making such a strong start Bath left it until late in the match before scoring their fourth and bonus point try.

Argentine wing Horacio Agulla dived over underneath the posts with less than two minutes left after Montpellier had frustrated their hosts for much of the second period.

A hat-trick from man of the match Matt Banahan meant a repeat of last week’s success on French soil was never in doubt but the bonus point looked like evading them as Montpellier refused to buckle and instead hit back with a brace of scores of their own through Alex Tulou and Mickael Ivaldi.

But Agulla ensured the Bath faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief when he took George Ford’s sweet pass to slice through from close-range and send Bath up to second in Pool 4.

Bath enjoyed a near perfect start as Banahan raced away inside the opening three minutes, with full back Anthony Watson having threatened to do the same moments earlier as the hosts showed their intent to attack from deep.

Sam Burgess marked his first start in rugby union by being directly involved in the opener, although it was a deflection off his knee rather than his strength or speed that put Banahan in after Leroy Houston’s powerful burst.

George Ford added the simple extras and soon followed that up with an equally comfortable penalty and Bath were 10 points up with less than 7 minutes on the clock.

And things soon got even better for Bath as Banahan cruised home for his second before the game was a quarter of an hour old. Ford’s clever pass did the initial damage and an even better one from new England cap Semesa Rokoduguni gave his wing partner the simplest of run ins.

With Ford again converting from close range, Bath were 17-0 to the good and Montpellier were left with a mountain to climb. But the floodgates refused to open throughout the rest of the half as the visitors stemmed the tide and prevented further damage to their already frail hopes.

Montpellier even ended the half on the attack but Bath never looked in real danger of shipping a try back as they entered the break halfway to a bonus point and in full control, if not full flight.

With a bonus point the talk of The Rec during the interval, Ford’s second penalty was met by initial surprise but then plenty of polite applause when he kicked Bath 20 points clear three minutes after the restart.

Watson came agonisingly close to claiming the elusive third try moments later as he eased past two defenders from deep before being narrowly beaten to his own chip and chase by scrum half Jonathan Pelissie.

That set the platform for another try scoring chance as Ford’s inside pass put Rokoduguni in the clear just 10 metres out but the soldier couldn’t hold on to the ball as another opportunity went begging.

The third try finally arrived 11 minutes into the second period and again it was that man Banahan. This time, he darted over from close range after Chris Cook went blind and offloaded to the unmarked wing. Banahan held off the covering defender and at The Rec went wild after 35 minutes without a try.

The TMO was called into action but, rather than rule out the try for any reason (notably a potential forward pass) he instead reduced Montpellier to 14 men after replacement scrum half Benoit Pailiaugue was seen to tip tackle Cook as the Bath man fed Banahan the scoring pass.

Ford missed from the tee for the first time but Bath were 25-0 to the good and within sight of the bonus point they craved. But it was Montpellier who were next on the scoreboard thanks to a well-worked driven lineout in the left-hand corner as they launched their first real attack of the half.

No8 Tulou touched down following Robins Tchale Watchou’s clean take and Montpellier finally had something to celebrate.

The conversion was missed but Tulou’s try was almost immediately followed by another as Yohann Artru intercepted deep in his own territory before setting off for the Bath line. Ford hauled him back to stop the danger but Montpellier did grab their second score with eight minutes left.

More power from the pack saw replacement hooker Ivaldi burrow through and, with the try converted the gap was down to 13 points.

That looked like being the final frustrating installment for the hosts before Agulla sent everyone home happy.

Final Score Bath 32 (17) Montpellier 12 (0)

Scorers

Bath
Tries – Banahan 3, Agulla
Pen -Ford 2
Con – Ford 3
Drop –

Montpellier
Tries – Tulou, Ivaldi
Pen –
Con – Paillaugue
Drop –

Match Officials
Referee:
Marius Mitrea (Italy),
Assistant ref: Elio Rizzo (Italy),
Assistant ref: Stefano Penne (Italy),
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy),
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (Ireland)

Bath Rugby: Anthony Watson; Semesa Rokoduguni, Jonathan Joseph, Sam Burgess , Matt Banahan; George Ford, Chris Cook; Paul James (c), Ross Batty, David Wilson, Dominic Day, David Attwood, Alafoti Fa’osiliva, Francois Louw, Leroy Houston

Replacements: Rob Webber, Nick Auterac, Henry Thomas, Stuart Hooper, David Sisi, Micky Young, Ollie Devoto, Horacio Agulla

Montpellier: Pierre Berard; Yohann Artru, Robert Ebersohn, Wynand Olivier, Viriviri Nasagavesi; Enzo Selponi, Jonathan Pelissie; Na’ama Leleimalefaga, Charles Geli, Pat Cilliers, Robins Tchale Watchou, Thibaut Privat, Fulgence Ouedraogo (c), Akapusi Qera, Alex Tulou

Replacements: Mickael Ivaldi, Yvan Watremez, David Attoub, Tom Donnelly, Alexandre Bias, Benoit Paillaugue, Rene Ranger, Benoit Sicart

With thanks to EPC RUgby.

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