Watson brace helps Bath edge Toulon
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Bath blew Pool Five in the European Rugby Champions Cup wide open with a rare 26-21 triumph over three-times European champions Toulon at The Recreation Ground in a memorable showdown in the English West Country.
England and British and Irish Lions back Anthony Watson chalked up a brace of tries and prop Beno Obano crossed as Bath avenged their last-gasp defeat at the Stade Mayol last weekend, with a result which sees them take top spot in Pool Five, one point clear of Toulon and Scarlets with two rounds left to play.
A partisan crowd roared Bath on as front rower Obano powered over the whitewash in the opening minute and Rhys Priestland's conversion, coupled with two penalties saw the hosts take a 13-0 lead in as many minutes.
Scrumhalf Alby Mathewson opened the Toulon account just five minutes later and Francois Trinh-Duc's conversion and a penalty moments later saw the deficit shrunk to just three points.
Watson's scintillating pace paid dividends for Bath on the half hour mark as he left the Toulon defence in shreds as he collected a fourth European try in his 17th appearance.
A second Trinh-Duc penalty drew Toulon back within five points, but Watson steered Bath Rugby further ahead with another remarkable display of individual brilliance, completing his brace of tries as he evaded every defensive effort in first-half overtime.
Toulon returned from the interval ready to fight back, though, just as they did a week ago, with Samu Manoa touching down as the gulf between the sides was once again reduced to five points.
An exchange of penalties between Priestland and Trinh-Duc followed, before Bath's stoic defence was tested with a 36-phase effort from Toulon, but it was not enough as the Premiership side held out for a first victory over the Top 14 giants, leaving everything to play for as the battle for quarter-final berths intensifies.
Tries: Obano, Watson 2
Pens: Priestland 3
Tries: Mathewson, Manoa
Pens: Trinh-Duc 3
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Aled Brew, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Paul Grant, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Beno Obano.
Replacements: 16 Michael Van Vuuren, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Kahn Fotuali’i, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Jack Wilson.
Toulon: 15 Hugo Bonneval, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Chris Ashton, 10 Francois Trinh-Duc, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Facundo Isa, 6 Juan Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Florian Fresia.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Etrillard, 17 Laurent Delboulbès, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Raphael Lakafia, 20 JP Pietersen, 21 Swan Rebbadj, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Juandre Kruger.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)