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Bath avoid Champions Cup humiliation with late fightback at La Rochelle

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Remi Picquette scored a brace of tries as La Rochelle recorded a thumping 39-21 victory over Bath at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre to record their second victory in the Champions Cup.

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Despite a bright start from the visitors, the result was never in doubt from the moment Pierre Popelin registered a couple of early penalties, after Ben Spencer had failed to give Bath an early lead from the tee.

The penalties were followed by a first try courtesy of Jonathan Danty. The powerful centre flew over after collecting a pass from fellow back Raymond Rhule.

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The home side were starting to dominate proceedings and crossed for a second try through forward Picquette. The lock smashed his way over from close range, with Popelin converting both scores.

La Rochelle were in danger of running away with it at this point and only an excellent piece of defence from Josh Bayliss prevented opposite number Gregory Alldritt from adding a third score just before the half-hour mark.

Bath ended the half on the front foot and they drew a number of penalties from the hosts and will have felt harshly done by that the referee did not reach for his pocket, with La Rochelle being pinged so often.

The pressure ultimately proved fruitless as they failed to trouble the scoreboard.

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The second half began in the worst possible fashion for the Premiership side, with Tom Ellis sent to the sin bin. La Rochelle made Bath pay almost instantly, with Picquette blasting his way over for his second try just five minutes after the break.

At this point, the bonus point try was just a matter of time away and it arrived through Dillyn Leyds.

The winger touched down after collecting a pass over the top, after La Rochelle had made their physicality felt.

It was followed by a fifth score courtesy of Rhule as the winger collected an inside pass from the galloping Brice Dulin, as the French side extended their score to 39-0.

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With the scoreline turning embarrassing, Bath rallied and quickly registered three converted tries around the hour mark.

Johannes Jonker, Joe Simpson and Ruaridh McConnochie all crossed for the visitors as they reduced the deficit to a more respectable 18 points and played some lovely rugby in the process.

As the game entered its final throes, Bath lost their second player to the bin with Jonker pinged at scrum time.

The hosts thought they had finished the game with a sixth score, but the referee ruled that replacement Leo Aouf was held up over the line, following a barnstorming run.

It was a brief bright spot in what was a dour closing stage as La Rochelle seemed content to hold what they had and record a comfortable victory.

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