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 Saturday, 11 January, 2003, 21:19 GMT
Bath beaten in France
Balshaw made a scoring return to action against Bridgend this month
Balshaw only returned to action earlier this month
Montauban 27-24 Bath

Bath will fancy their chances of progressing to the Parker Pen Challenge Cup semi-finals despite a narrow defeat in France on Saturday.

But Montauban's abrasive style will ensure that there will be no easy ride for a Bath side packed with internationals.

The visitors almost made a dream start in the first minute when Iain Balshaw chipped over the home defence and hacked on between the posts but the ball ran dead before he could touch down.

But Bath did not have to wait long. Two minutes later Balshaw released Simon Danielli to touch down in the corner. Barkley failed to convert but Bath were on their way.

Vermis replied with a penalty to make it 5-3 in the eighth minute when Bath collapsed a scrum on their own 22 but Barkley kicked Bath into an 8-3 lead four minutes later.

Barkley eased Bath further in front with another penalty from around the 40-metre mark after Gratchev threw a punch at David Barnes as a scrum broke up but Vermis cut the visitors' lead back to 11-6.

The home side were back on level terms in the 25th minute when Montauban skipper Sergueev crashed over in the corner to punish a handling error from Mike Tindall, who failed to hold a pass from Balshaw.

Tindall made up for his mistake on the half-hour, romping over from 30 metres out to finish a break by Matt Perry after Tindall's tackle on Colome forced Montauban to turn the ball over on the half-way line. Barkley's conversion gave Bath an 18-11 lead.

Bath survived a scare in the 36th minute when a knock-on from Vermis a yard short of the tryline spared them.

But the French side snatched a try on the stroke of half-time when prop Ben Bouhout put number eight Misse over in the right-hand corner. Vermis' conversion sent the sides in all-square at 18-18.

Winning kick

Montauban started the second half the way they finished the first - going forward. Vermis' goal from 30 metres out gave Montauban the lead for the first time in the 47th minute.

Bath were back on terms seven minutes later when Barkley notched his third successful penalty kick of the night.

The visitors' retention of good possession paid off in the 65th minute when Barkley slotted over another close-range penalty to give Bath a 24-21 lead.

But with six minutes to go Montauban launched a drive in the right corner which ended with Bath being penalised for offside. Vermis kicked his fourth penalty of the night to level it up again at 24-24.

And it was Vermis who gave Montauban victory a minute into injury time when he stroked over a 40-metre penalty after Perry held on to the ball after he was tackled.


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