Bath blow Euro chance as lineout flop costs them final shot against Leicester
Bath blew the chance of a European Challenge Cup final against Leicester after shooting themselves in the foot against Montpellier.
Stuart Hooper’s men had home advantage and scored first but their good work was undone by a disastrous lineout – allowing the French to take their place at Twickenham on May 21.
Time and again Bath put themselves in position to hurt Montpellier – spending a third of the game in their opponents' 22 – only to painfully cough up possession along the touchlines.
Captain Charlie Ewels said: “The game always gives you the ultimate feedback and when you deliver a set-piece like that, that’s what decides games.
“The group’s worked really hard for this and worked really hard to be here so we’re gutted. And I’ve got to hold my hand up.
“I run the lineout, It was for me to problem solve better than I did. They put us under real pressure and we just didn’t handle that.”
Bath started the better, ripping into opponents who had not played for three weeks and being rewarded with a fourth minute Tom Dunn try.
At that point Montpellier’s heads were spinning and had the home side not blown two lineouts they might have built a significant advantage.
But the inconsistencies which have plagued the West Countrymen for too long once again proved their undoing – allowing Montpellier take control through half-backs Benoit Paillaugue and Alex Lozowski.
Lozowski, on loan from Saracens, made two superb line breaks to rock Bath back onto their heels and Paillaugue then set to work on the scoreboard.
By half-time the scrum-half had a hat-trick of penalties to his name and the assist for Yacouba Camara’s 23rd minute try, dinking a clever chip to Vincent Rattez who slipped the money pass inside to his flanker.
Bath were in a hole and, unlike Leicester on Friday night, were unable to turn the tide in the third quarter despite phase after phase of pressure resulting in a yellow card for opposition prop Enzo Forletta.
The frustration was clear in Bath’s pride of Lions’ wannabes, seeing their tour hopes diminish in front of Warren Gatland and his two coaching assistants.
They kept working but eight lineout losses was simply too much to absorb in a major semi-final.
Montpellier sent on World Cup winning Springboks Handre Pollard and Bismarck du Plessis to defend their one-score lead – and Du Plessis it was who won a critical turnover on his own line.
When Pollard kicked a penalty in the final minute Bath’s fate was sealed.
BATH – Try: Dunn. Con: Spencer. Pen: Spencer.
MONTPELLIER – Try: Camara. Con: Paillaugue. Pens: Paillaugue 3, Pollard.
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