Toulon suffer defeat in Bath

Anthony Watson scored two sparkling tries in front of England boss Eddie Jones as Bath produced some champagne rugby to down French heavyweights Toulon.

The Watson-inspired 26-21 victory took Bath top of European Champions Cup Pool Five on points difference, giving English rugby a welcome boost after all seven of their representatives were beaten last weekend.

Watson, a dynamic attacking presence for England and the British and Irish Lions this year, showcased his mesmeric running ability by touching down twice in 12 first-half minutes, which followed a try from prop Beno Obano inside the opening 60 seconds.

Fly-half Rhys Priestland added 11 points, while Toulon posted an Alby Mathewson try and Samu Manoa touchdown, plus a conversion and three penalties from Francois Trinh-Duc as the triple European champions departed the Recreation Ground with a losing bonus point.

The result sets up a thrilling pool conclusion next month, with Welsh challengers the Scarlets also firmly in quarter-final contention. Bath's final two games are at home to Scarlets and away against Benetton.

Bath, beaten in the closing stages by Toulon on the Cote d'Azur last weekend, made a blistering start as Obano powered over for a try after just 48 seconds following impressive approach work from wing Aled Brew.

Priestland converted and then kicked a penalty as Bath rattled along at a point a minute, denying Toulon any worthwhile possession and remaining on the front foot through a second Priestland penalty.

Toulon could not get out of their own half, but when they finally secured some territory, it took a superb Brew tackle on Trinh-Duc to deny the France international a try.

Bath's reprieve was only a temporary one, though, as Mathewson opened Toulon's account through an 18th-minute touchdown that Trinh-Duc converted before a penalty from the number 10 clipped Toulon's deficit to just three points.

But then it was time for the Watson wondershow, first of all when he outstripped Toulon's defence after his England colleague Jonathan Joseph freed him in space, and then with a virtuoso second touchdown.

Trinh-Duc's second successful penalty made it 18-13, yet Bath had no intention of playing for half-time as Watson brought a 14,000-plus crowd to its feet when he somehow arced around bewildered would-be Toulon tacklers on a searing 30-metre burst.

Priestland failed to convert, but Bath were good value for a 10-point interval advantage in pursuit of the victory they needed to keep them on course for a potential last-eight place.

Toulon knew they had to score first after half-time, and it took them barely two minutes to deliver as their New Zealand World Cup-winning centre Ma'a Nonu made headway, found wing Chris Ashton in support, then hooker Guilhem Guirado gave a scoring pass to Manoa.

The visitors then could have been level, but Trinh-Duc missed a conversion and penalty in quick succession, leaving Bath still ahead, but knowing they were in a major fight for the points.

Priestland completed his penalty hat-trick to make it 26-18, and Bath thought they had tightened their grip on the contest just a minute later when number eight Paul Grant's inside ball sent substitute Jack Wilson sprinting to the line. However, it was disallowed for a forward pass following lengthy discussion between referee Nigel Owens and television match official Neil Hennessy.

It was an agonising moment for Bath - and a highly-debatable decision - but they kept their nerve to hold on and claim a priceless victory after late Toulon pressure.


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