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Biarritz break Bath hearts

Sunday 2nd April 2006

12:00 am (GMT)

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- 02/04/2006 18:59

- 02/04/2006 18:59

Biarritz Olympique and Bath Rugby meet for the third time in their history when they play in the Heineken Cup semi-final on Saturday.

Bath completed the double over the French side in the Pool stage of the 2001/2 tournament, including a famous 14-6 victory at Parc des Sports Aquiléra.

Old rivalries will be renewed with the confrontation of club stalwarts Serge Betsen and Steve Borthwick – just two of the six players from that season that remain first choice players for their teams.
This time however, Biarritz – the champions of France – are playing in front of 30,000 fans at Estadio Anoeta and have a point to prove after being dumped out of the Heineken Cup at the semi-final stage for the past two seasons.

Last season an 87th minute Christophe Dominici try sent Stade Francais Paris through to the Edinburgh final. The season before that Toulouse beat them 19-11.

But Bath Rugby have some European pedigree of their own. The English aristocrats won the trophy in 1998, and stormed their way to this season’s quarter-finals by winning their first five games in the Pool stages.

A hard-fought win over Leicester Tigers in the quarter-finals sees them in the final four. Biarritz progressed to this stage by topping Pool 4 and then defeating a disappointing Sale Sharks side in the quarter-finals.

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Biarritz break Bath hearts

Sunday 2nd April 2006

12:00 am (GMT)

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- 02/04/2006 18:59

- 02/04/2006 18:59

It was third time lucky for Biarritz Olympique as Dimitri Yachvili produced a quality display of goal-kicking against Bath in the Heineken Cup semi-final.

Brian Ashton's men kept in touch to trail only 9-6 at halftime, and their strong defensive line frustrated the French club, but Bath's dreams of emulating their 1998 Cup victory were shattered by Yachvili's unerring boot.

“We had our opportunities, but we made too many errors and gave away too many penalties,” Bath skipper Steve Borthwick admitted.

“They are a good side who put pressure on us, but we made too many simple errors. But I'm immensely proud of this side for the effort in making it this far.

“We'll learn from this game.”

Centre Olly Barkley added: “We coughed up too much ball and put ourselves under pressure. They capitalised on that.

“The times we held on to the ball, we caused them some problems, and this is a bitter pill to swallow.”

The French side made the brightest start, running their first three touches of the ball to erase memories of their dire quarter-final against Sale
Sharks, and they rewarded with a penalty goal to Yachvili.

Biarritz danger man Sireli Bobo touched the ball more times in the opening 10 minutes than he did in the entire match against the Sharks, but just as fans settled in for a quality game of running rugby, the rain started falling at Estadio Anoeta.

Yachvili (two) and Bath fly-half Chris Malone (two) traded penalty goals as referee Alain Rolland clamped down on the breakdown and the game struggled to get out of the two middle quarters.

TheFrench club went into the break leading 9-6, and in the second period Yachvili continued his metronomic kicking with a fourth goal after Malone and Lipman took Damien Traille out of play with as much subtlety as Mike Tyson, and the margin became nine when Traille slotted a dropped goal.

The pressure began telling on both sides on the hour mark, with the two forward packs trading several heavy punches. Referee Rolland sent Grewcock and Biarritz prop Petru Balan to the bin, and Malone made things interesting with his third goal of the match.

Another Bory break kept the visiting fans on the edge of their seats, but the ball was knocked out of replacement Salesi Finau's hands as the gods continued to smile on the French club.

Bath's confidence of a thrilling comeback died as the clock ticked down, and it was left to Yachvili to hammer home the last coffin nail with his fifth goal.

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