Toulon edge past Bath to secure a quarter-final spot after winning 19-14 at The Rec
Tries from Steffon Armitage and Bryan Habana sealed the victory
Steffon Armitage starred as Toulon beat Bath 19-14 at the Recreation Ground as the reigning champions booked their place in the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.
The holders had gone into the final round of games as group leaders, but Wasps leapfrogged them on points scored in their two meetings.
Mike Ford’s men had only pride to play for and they certainly made the triple champions sweat before they could bank the four match points and book their place in the last eight.
It was nip and tuck all the way but in the end it all added up to Toulon’s sixth away win from their last eight tournament contests on the road with Armitage taking the individual honours with a try and numerous trade mark turnovers.
Toulon made a very composed start to the game with O’Connor knocking over two penalties to give the French side an early six-point lead at the Rec.
George Ford got Bath on the board soon after from the tee but the reigning European champions edged further clear when England exile Steffon Armitage put in a powerful hand-off to barge his way over for the game’s opening try after 18 minutes.
Fly-half O’Connor pushed the conversion wide before Ford knocked over another penalty for Bath heading into half-time, 6-11.
Bath started the second half with renewed confidence, and Anthony Watson found himself touching down after fantastic attacking work and a great inside pass for Kyle Eastmond.
Ford’s conversion was dragged wide, leaving the game in the balance at 11 points apiece.
Just minutes later Ford made up for his missed kicked, as he converted a penalty with ease to take the home side in to the lead, 14-11.
With 58 minutes on the clock, Dave Denton picked up a loose ball but in trying to find Semesa Rokoduguni on the right wing, he could only find South African winger Habana to stride home unchallenged. O’Connor failed to convert.
Fly-half O’Connor though made up for his miss and slotted his final attempt of the game, edging Toulon into a five-point lead and That was that and Toulon are right in their with a fourth straight tournament crown in their sights.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Toulon: Steffon Armitage
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 George Ford (c), 9 Chris Cook; 1 Nick Auterac, 2 Ross Batty, 3 Henry Thomas, 4 Charlie Ewels, 5 Dominic Day, 6 David Denton, 7 Guy Mercer, 8 Leroy Houston.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 David Wilson, 19 Tom Ellis, 20 Matt Garvey, 21 Alafoti Faosiliva, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Ollie Devoto.
Toulon: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Maxime Mermoz, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Sebastien Tillous-Borde; 1 Florian Fresia, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 3 Levan Chilachava, 4 Jocelino Suta (c), 5 Samu Manoa, 6 Juan Smith, 7 Steffon Armitage, 8 Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Charles Orioli, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Manasa Saulo, 19 Mamuka Gorgodze, 20 Romain Taofifenua, 21 Mathieu Bastareaud, 22 Eric Escande, 23 Thibault Lassale.
Date: Saturday, January 23
Venue: The Recreation Ground
Kick-off: 15:15 GMT
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Gwyn Morris (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)