Taulupe Faletau and Semesa Rokoduguni score two tries apiece as Bath beat Brive

Published: Saturday 1st April 2017 by The News Editor

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Wales international Taulupe Faletau and England wing Semesa Rokoduguni each scored two tries as Bath booked a place in the European Challenge Cup semi-finals by subduing battling Brive.

Both players starred in Bath’s 34-20 Recreation Ground victory, while Rokoduguni’s fellow wing Tom Homer also touched down to book a last-four clash against Ospreys or Stade Francais later this month.

Fly-half Rhys Priestland added a penalty and three conversions, but Brive did not go quietly, as Faletau’s opposite number Fabien Sanconnie also claimed two tries, which were both converted by full-back Gaetan Germain, who also kicked two penalties.

Brive trailed by 21 points early in the second half, yet France international Sanconnie’s quickfire double from close range gave Bath plenty of food for thought.

The 2008 Challenge Cup winners, though, had enough in the tank as they bounced back from last weekend’s 53-10 Aviva Premiership drubbing by Saracens, which was their heaviest league defeat for 15 years.

Bath rested fly-half George Ford, but his England team-mates Anthony Watson and Jonathan Joseph both started, along with Australia hooker Nathan Charles, who made his first-team debut.

Brive, meanwhile, included eight of the team that started last weekend’s impressive Top 14 triumph over Montpellier when Germain kicked 23 points in a 28-25 win.

And Brive dominated the initial stages in terms of territory and possession, pinning Bath deep inside their own half through a series of close-quarter surges.

Although Priestland kicked Bath 3-0 ahead after the pressure briefly relented, Brive immediately returned to the home team’s 22, and an angled Germain penalty put them level before another strike four minutes later put his team ahead for the first time.

But Bath, whose Challenge Cup history showed just one previous home defeat, stirred themselves into action and delivered a stunning reply by scoring three tries in 10 minutes.

Faletau scored the first, profiting from a superb Priestland break before scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i delivered a scoring pass, then slick work by Watson and a deft finish by Homer saw the former London Irish back increase Bath’s advantage.

Brive were suddenly at sixes and sevens as they struggled to cope with Bath’s fluid handling game, and a third try arrived when Joseph made light work of the French team’s defence and sent an unmarked Rokoduguni over as Bath reached 20 points.

Bath could not add to their tally before the break, but Brive faced a Herculean second-half task, 14 points behind and needing to make a rapid recovery.

Bath, though, effectively put the game out of reach within five minutes of the restart as they punched holes in Brive’s defence and eventually created sufficient space to give Faletau a clear run for his second try.

Priestland added the extras, and Brive appeared consigned to little more than damage-limitation for the remainder of a disappointingly one-sided encounter.

But the visitors were having none of it, and they resorted to a direct approach through their forwards, which reaped rich rewards as Sanconnie powered over twice in six minutes, with two more Germain conversions slashing Bath’s advantage to only seven points.

Try as they might, though, Brive could make no further inroads, and Bath now face an away semi-final in three weeks’ time as Rokoduguni’s late solo effort sealed the deal.

Published: Saturday 1st April 2017 by The News Editor

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