Banahan leads Bath rout

2014-12-13 07:47
Banahan scores his third try (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Matt Banahan bagged a hat-trick as Bath romped to a 32-12 win over Montpellier in Friday's European Rugby Champions Cup clash at the Rec.

Banahan scored twice inside the first 15 minutes to help the home side to a 17-0 lead at the interval.

From there it looked like it would be plain sailing for the bonus point, but in the end they had to wait until three minutes from time when Horacio Agulla went over to finally secure maximum points.

That moves them up to second in Pool 4, two points behind leaders Toulouse who play in Glasgow on Saturday.

The Scots are a point further back in a tight race at the top of the pool.

This looked like it might be a rout early on as Bath raced into a big early lead against a Montpellier side who have now lost seven straight in all competitions.

But credit to the visitors, they battled hard, and actually dominated for large periods, although they struggled to create many clearcut opportunities.

What chances they had came from their rolling maul, with the hugely-impressive Alex Tulou and Mickaël Ivaldi both scoring tries.

Indeed they could have had more points after a string of scrums on the Bath line on the stroke of halftime, but with a penalty try beckoning, they fluffed their lines and allowed Bath to escape.

The home side made the perfect start when Banahan went over inside two minutes. The score came as Montpellier were caught short on the left and Leroy Houston fed Sam Burgess, on his first start, inside him.

The former rugby league man failed to control and fortuitously kneed the ball to Banahan, and despite a touch forward off his hand, the try was awarded.

George Ford converted and added a penalty, before Semesa Rokoduguni's scything run set up Bath's second.

The Bath winger popped up on first-phase ball to go straight through in midfield, before finding Anthony Watson who spread the ball to Banahan for an easy finish. Again Ford was left with a simple conversion and it was 17-0 after just 13 minutes.

Montpellier could have crumbled, but instead they held on to the ball and had the better of the remainder of the half.

They were not able to turn that dominance into points however, and early in the second Bath chose to kick three more points rather than kicking to the corner.

It didn't look as though that would cost them when Banahan completed his hat-trick, taking a pass from Chris Cook off the back of a maul to ghost over. Things got worse for Montpellier when replacement Benoît Paillaugue was sin-binned for a tip tackle on Cook, and was a little lucky the card wasn't red.

Trailing 25-0 and a man down, Montpellier decided the best form of defence was to deny Bath the ball, and they even managed their first try while down to 14.

A powerful maul never looked like being stopped by the home side, and Tulou, just as he had done last week, was the man to score.

They grabbed a second in similar fashion, although on the other side of the pitch through Ivaldi. The grounding was a little less clear, but referee Marius Mitrea had seen enough and awarded the try after help from his TMO.

Bath were running out of time to find their fourth try, and couldn't rely on their scrum to get them out of trouble.

In the end it came just as they were starting to really panic. A few phases in the Montpellier 22 seemed to be going nowhere, but when the ball came back into midfield, Agulla picked the perfect line and gleefully sprinted under the posts.

Ford added the easy conversion to seal the game for Mike Ford's side, and they are now back in with a shot of reaching the quarterfinals.

Next up will be a trip to Toulouse in January, while Montpellier's focus will be getting back into the playoff race in the Top 14.

Read more on:    montpellier  |  bath  |  rugby

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