Clermont Auvergne prolonged Bath's nine-year wait for silverware
Clermont Auvergne (3) 22
Tries: Malzieu, Marsh, James
Cons: James (2)
Bath (6) 16
Pens: Barkley (3)
Clermont Auvergne weathered a late Bath storm to clinch the European Challenge Cup at the Twickenham Stoop.
The French side trailed 3-6 at the break but hit Bath with tries from Julien Malzieu, Tony Marsh and Brock James to stretch into a decisive lead.
A stunning solo try from wing Joe Maddock gave Bath hope and only the video ref stopped Clermont conceding again when Peter Short reached over.
Olly Barkley kicked a penalty and Bath pressed to the end but to no avail.
What we need to see is Bath rugby matching the player's ambitions
Bath skipper Steve Borthwick
"We were probably lucky to come away with a win, to be honest," said Clermont's Kiwi centre Marsh.
"There was desperate defending there at the end."
Bath skipper Steve Borthwick said: "I'm proud of the boys. It was a courageous effort.
"It hurts to lose any final but we've got to learn from it - we need to start from minute one - and come back stronger next season. But it is a huge missed opportunity."
Bath, who won 16 trophies between 1984 and 1996, including five league and cup doubles, last picked up some silverware when they beat Brive 19-18 in the 1998 European Cup final.
I think you could expect Bath to up their game next season
"We've got a group of players who are incredibly ambitious. What we need to see over the summer is Bath Rugby matching the player's ambitions," added Borthwick.
The defeat also cost Bath a place in next season's Heineken Cup, if the tournament goes ahead after the political wrangling between the clubs and their governing bodies has been sorted out.
Harlequins take the final English Heineken Cup berth by virtue of their seventh-place finish in the Guinness Premiership.
Bath coach Steve Meehan insists Bath's ultimately disappointing season does not reflect the quality of players at the club.
"I feel for the players. They gave it everything in that competition and I am very disappointed for them," he said.
"We have quality players and we showed that today. I think you could expect Bath to up their game next season."
Meehan admitted missing out on the Heineken Cup does not help his recruitment plans.
"If we had of won it would have made things easier but we are pretty confident we have got the people coming in that we need," he said.
Clermont Auvergne: A Floch; A Rougerie (capt), G Esterhuizen, T Marsh, J Malzieu; B James, P Mignoni; L Emmanuelli, M Ledesma, M Scelzo, J Cudmore, T Privat, S Broomhall, M Dieude, E Vermeulen.
Replacements: B Miguel, G Shvelidze, L Jacquet, G Longo, A Troncon, S Bai, R Chanal.
Bath: N Abendanon; J Maddock, E Fuimaono-Sapolu, O Barkley, D Bory; S Berne, N Walshe; D Barnes, L Mears, M Stevens, S Borthwick (capt), D Grewcock, A Beattie, M Lipman, Z Feaunati.
Replacements: P Dixon, A Jarvis, P Short, J Scaysbrook, A Williams, C Malone, T Cheeseman.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).