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Barbeary red card doesn't stop Bath fightback against Top 14 leaders

By PA
BATH, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Will Muir of Bath celebrates at the final whistle during the Investec Champions Cup match between Bath Rugby and Racing 92 at Recreation Ground on January 14, 2024 in Bath, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Bath passed the biggest test of their revival yet by toppling Top 14 leaders Racing 92 29-25 in a win that keeps them in the hunt for home advantage in the Investec Champions Cup round of 16.

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It took falling 22-8 behind at the Recreation Ground with just over a quarter left to spark them into action, but they showed their class by hitting back with tries from Alfie Barbeary, Joe Cokanasiga and Will Muir.

Muir pounced in the 72nd minute to secure the bonus point and they had to close out the last six minutes with only 14 players after Barbeary was sent off for receiving his second yellow card.

Barbeary was magnificent against the Parisians until he used his elbow when carrying into scrum-half Nolann Le Garrec, but he had already done enough to catch England’s attention ahead of the Six Nations.

Cokanasiga, Ollie Lawrence, Ben Spencer and Finn Russell were also influential against Stuart Lancaster’s Racing, who are hoping to prise Owen Farrell away from Saracens for next season yet have lost all three of their European games this season.

Barbeary’s first yellow card came early on for a dangerous tackle on Max Spring and as a result Racing were the first over through Le Garrec.

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Russell’s scorching break ultimately took him down a blind ally and the Scot then made an important tackle on Kitione Kamikamica as the try-line beckoned for the number eight.

Bath ignited in flashes, Barbeary showing his gas as he rampaged forward and Russell’s hands causing hesitation in the visiting defence, but they were initially unable to capitalise on the half-chances being created.

But then a brilliant move launched by Spencer was rewarded when Thomas du Toit powered over in the corner, with Will Rowlands’ yellow card for killing the ball also evidence of the pressure faced by Racing.

Bath trailed 10-8 at the interval, but a subdued start to second half saw them breached for the second time and it was all too easy as Antoine Gibert’s pinpoint kick gave Kamikamica the time to gather and touch down.

The third quarter was all Racing, but to continue a theme of the match Bath’s scrum was causing problems, with one set-piece penalty enabling them to escape their half.

But the French giants continued to tighten the screw and Henry Arundell was the next to score, although there was a hint of a forward pass during some otherwise classy build-up.

It was a simple run in for Arundell, with Maxime Baudonne doing the key work, and the replacement back row then made a try-saving tackle on Cameron Redpath.

Bath stayed in the hunt with a close-range try by Barbeary and suddenly the home side were back firing on all cylinders, a combination of dynamic running and crisp passing sending Cokanasiga over.

Spencer added the conversion via the left upright to level the score, but Racing crept back in front when Le Garrec landed a penalty.

Bath showed their magic to conjure a try for Muir, with Barbeary, Lawrence and Redpath involved in the build-up, but Barbeary’s second yellow for use of the elbow resulted in a nervy finish for the hosts that they survived.

Match Summary

1
Penalty Goals
2
4
Tries
3
3
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
87
Carries
124
6
Line Breaks
7
10
Turnovers Lost
14
6
Turnovers Won
3
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