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Brive’s players are looking to pay their own special tribute to the great side that won the European Cup 20 years ago when they head to Bath for their Challenge Cup quarter-final.
It will also be an opportunity to set the record straight after Bath became the first English club to win the European Cup with their epic one point win against the French club in Bordeaux. This time there is a semi-final at stake.
“The chance of reaching the semi-finals is great gift for us and our fans and it would be a tribute to the players who won the European Cup 20 years ago,” said flanker Said Hireche.
A last gasp, 28-25 home win over last season’s Challenge Cup winners Montpellier in the TOP 14 last weekend will have boosted confidence in the Brive camp, while Bath have been left picking up the pieces after their 53-10 defeat at Saracens. More injury worries have handed director of rugby Todd Blackadder some extra problems he could have done without.
Welsh international Rhys Priestland is set to start at No 10 to give England’s George Ford a rest and Blackadder has banged the drum to his players about discipline given the goalkicking display put on by Gaetan Germain against Montpellier last weekend when he kicked 23 points.
“Brive have a huge forward pack so discipline has to be key. They've also got the best goal-kicker in the competition, so we've got to deny them ball and play the attacking rugby we've talked about,” said Blackadder.
“The fact it's a knock-out game gives us that extra pressure we need, making Brive almost the perfect team to bounce back against. We'll have to match them physically, but also try to run them off their feet.
“Looking back, I really think that defeat at Saracens was the best thing that's happened to us for a long time. We were absolutely ripped apart and I feel like the last month has been a slow death.
“We just haven't been playing the rugby we've been practising and preparing for. Now we've really got to turn this around and show a good response.”
History is stacked against Brive as Bath have won three of the four games they have played. They met three times in the European Cup in the 1997/98 season, Bath winning 27-25 at home, losing 29-12 in France and then taking the title with a 19-18 final win in Bordeaux.
They also met at The Rec in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup in 2014, when Bath romped home 39-7. On top of that, Bath have also won 27 of their 28 home games in the Challenge Cup, losing only to Stade Francais Paris, 36-20, in the 2013 quarter-final.
- This will be the fifth time the clubs have met, and the second time in the Challenge Cup (Bath defeated Brive 39-7 in the 2014 quarter-final).
- This match is a repeat of the 1998 European Cup final in Bordeaux which saw Bath edge the verdict 19-18.
- Bath have won 27 of their 28 home games in the Challenge Cup, and Stade Français Paris are the only club to come away from The Rec with a victory in the competition (36-20 in the 2013 quarter-final).
- This is the 10th time that Brive have reached the quarter-finals in their last 12 Challenge Cup campaigns, however, they’ve lost six of their last seven matches at this stage.
- Bath, who won the tournament in 2008, have reached the quarter-finals for the seventh time, and have progressed to the semi-finals on five of the previous six occasions.
- Brive have won five of their last nine away games against Aviva Premiership opposition in the Challenge Cup.
- Bath picked up just one yellow card during the pool stage – the fewest of any club in the competition (Brive had three).
- Rhys Priestland slotted 13/13 kicks at goal in the pool stage, more than any other player with a 100% record. Brive’s top scorer, Gaetan Germain, missed just one of his 16 attempts.
- Tom Homer was one of just four players to play every minute of the pool stage and the only one who made it through to the quarter-finals.
- 36% (9/25) of Bath’s tries this season have begun inside their own half, and only the Ospreys have scored a higher percentage in that stats category.
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Bath Rugby survived a second-half scare, but progressed to the semi-finals of the European Rugby Challenge Cup with an entertaining 34-20 victory over Brive.
A brace of tries from both Taulupe Faletau and Semesa Rokoduguni and a Tom Homer effort were enough to seal the win, with Rhys Priestland kicking a penalty and three conversions.
Faletau’s opposite number and Brive No 8 Fabien Sanconnie scored two tries of his own after the break to put a different complexion on the scoreline, but Bath held on.
A cagey opening had seen Brive’s Gaetan Germain kick two penalties to one from Priestland, before the Wales international created the game’s first try.
The fly-half spotted a gap in the French defence, and exploited it to the full, sprinting through and linking with Kahn Fotuali’i who put man of the match Faletau away to score. The impressive try was converted by Priestland, and it opened the game up for Todd Blackadder’s men to prosper.
It was fast and loose from the home side in the Bath sunshine, but two more scores before the break from wings Homer and Rokoduguni made it 20-6 at the interval. Homer’s try was a sublime, diving finish, while Rokoduguni benefitted from some fast feet by England centre Jonathan Joseph.
A comfortable interval advantage was only extended at the start of the second period, No 8 Faletau adding his second of the day beneath the sticks. Priestland, who had missed with his previous two conversion attempts, this time added the simple extras.
Brive’s leaky defence had left them in all sorts of trouble in the first half, with Bath’s tricky runners Joseph, Anthony Watson and Priestland needing no second invitation to make the most of the space they were being afforded. But then, out of nowhere, the visitors hit back.
A close-range scrum ended with Sanconnie crashing over, Germain adding the extras to bring Brive back into it. Complacency seemed to have slipped into the Bath ranks, and they were then given a further fright as more power play from the French pack allowed Sanconnie to score his second.
Germain converted and all of a sudden, there were just seven points in it.
Bath were now up against it, Brive taking confidence from their two quick-fire scores. The final quarter was a tight affair, but in the Rokoduguni came up trumps late on to seal the victory.
The powerful wing brushed through six or seven Brive tacklers on his way to the line for a sublime individual effort. Priestland converted to send Bath through to the last four.