Bath 11-12 Biarritz, Heineken Cup, October 10
Yachvili kicks Biarritz home
October 10, 2010
Dimitri Yachvili slotted all of Biarritz's points
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Biarritz ground out a vital 12-11 victory over Bath in their opening Heineken Cup showdown at the Rec on Sunday.
Last season's beaten finalists were again thankful for the boot of scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili after he slotted four second-half penalties to overhaul the home side's 8-0 half-time lead.
Scrum-half Michael Claassens scored early on for Bath following some brilliant handling by centre Olly Barkley, who accounted for his side's remaining points with two penalties. Having slipped to a damaging home defeat to west country rivals Gloucester last weekend the Bath faithful did not get the result they desired, with their team showing plenty of immaturity and indiscipline in the closing stages.
A late yellow card for prop David Wilson proved costly before a cast-iron drop-goal for Barkley was turned down in the closing stages, allowing Biarritz to clear their lines and emerge with a crucial away win. Bath failed to emerge from the group stages last season and they already face an uphill task this year given Pool 4 rivals Ulster's early season form and bonus-point win over Aironi in Belfast on Friday night.
Barkley atoned for an early missed penalty by dispatching his next attempt from right in front and soon crafted the opening try with some superb soft hands. The England cast-off popped up in midfield with a defence-splitting offload to allow Matt Carraro to drive to within inches of the line before providing the scoring pass to Claassens.
The roar from the home crowd was eclipsed moments later for a moment of defensive brilliance from Nick Abendanon, who snuffed out a certain try by hauling down lightning-fast Biarritz wing Takudzwa Ngwenya in sight of the home line. Bath survived another scare when a forward pass from Michael Bond sent his centre partner Charles Gimenez haring into space, a knock-forward sparing the hosts after Bond's error was missed by referee James Jones.
Immediately after the resumption, Yachvili got Biarritz on the board with a typically well-struck penalty but Barkley missed out on an opportunity to respond with three points of his own after a breakdown infringement from Imanol Harinordoquy.
Yachvili's second penalty arrived on 50 minutes to bring Biarritz back to within two points and the Basque side were almost ahead a couple of minutes later. A break from Ngwenya following a lost Bath lineout sent heart-rates soaring among the home fans and after the visiting forwards took up the charge from close range No.8 Raphael Lakafia wriggled across the line only to be called back for a double movement.
Nevertheless, Yachvili snaffled a one-point advantage immediately after with his third penalty in quick succession, which again resulted from a poor Bath lineout. Julien Peyrelongue sent a drop-goal past the posts as they sought to extend their narrow lead but was immediately replaced by returning Biarritz hero Damien Traille - back in action after five months out with a fractured arm and groin problems.
Barkley punctured Biarritz's bubble of pressure with his second penalty, crucially won by his pack at a centre-field scrum, before Traille attempted to hit back with an ugly-looking drop-goal. The France centre's effort spiralled wide of the mark but Yachvili soon grabbed the lead back with penalty number four, a damaging kick that was accompanied by Wilson's sin-binning for a cynical slap-down.
Bath then spurned their golden opportunity to secure the win, turning down a simple drop-goal to chase five points. The home side had been gifted position by a panicked Traille clearance cannoning off Dane Haylett-Petty but as Barkley lined up a sitter from under the posts the ball was flung wide and lost in contact. Biarritz broke away through Ngwenya and prop Edouard Coetzee, grinding out the dying moments of the game to leave Bath cursing their poor decision making.
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