Pressure on Bath after defeat to Stade

STEVE MEEHAN admits it will take “a really good effort” for Bath to reach this season’s Heineken Cup quarter-finals following their shattering defeat against French giants Stade Francais.

Julien Dupuy returned to haunt Bath for the second campaign in a row as Stade stole a dramatic 29-27 Recreation Ground victory. The scrum-half’s seventh penalty a minute from time condemned Bath to their second successive Pool Four defeat.

No team has ever reached the Heineken quarter-finals after losing their opening two group games, but that is the colossal challenge now facing Bath.

“We are going to have to play very well in our remaining four games and hope other results go our way,” admitted Bath head coach Meehan.

“It is going to take a really good effort.”

Bath led 21-9 just before half-time following tries by fly-half Nicky Little, who scored 22 points, and centre Matt Carraro, but Dupuy’s penalty haul, a Lionel Beauxis drop-goal and late touchdown by England sevens star Ollie Phillips saw Stade edge it.

Meehan added: “I won’t be too hard on the players. It is obviously very disappointing for all of the guys.

“Unfortunately, we were penalised a couple of times too often, and perhaps we went away a little from how we played in the first half.

“But we played a much better brand of rugby than we did against Ulster last week, and we will continue to try to develop that.”

Bath wing Matt Banahan had earlier run riot, the 6ft 7in powerhouse repeatedly blasting through Stade’s defence.

His line-breaking prowess from broken field play was showcased spectacularly as he warmed up for England’s autumn Test series, which starts against Australia on November 7. The only blot on his copybook was a disputable second-half yellow card, collected for what referee George Clancy perceived as a high tackle on Stade wing Mirco Bergamasco.

“It was a terrific, legal tackle,” said Meehan. “Where does that (yellow card) come from? He didn’t deserve 10 minutes in the bin.”

Stade’s triumph continued a profitable weekend for French clubs against English opposition, following victories for Perpignan, Biarritz and Toulouse over Northampton, Gloucester and Harlequins.

And their dream of reaching a Heineken final in their home city of Paris – venue for this season’s final next May – remains firmly alive after an unbeaten start.

“Stade have been in two European finals and lost them both,” said their England lock Tom Palmer.

“There is a huge desire within the squad to put that right. The final being in Paris is a real motivating factor.

“Away wins in the Heineken Cup are so important. If you can do that, while also winning your home games, then you are in charge of your pool.”

And Palmer’s club and country team-mate, flanker James Haskell, added: “I think we can compete with anyone, but you have to turn up on the day.

“To come to Bath and win is pretty exciting.”

Bath Scorers: Try – N Little, M Carraro; Conversion – N Little; Penalty – N Little (5)

Stade Francais scorers: Try – O Phillips; Penalty – J Dupuy (7) ; Drop Goal – L Beauxis

BATH: N Abendanon, J Maddock, M Carraro, S Hape, M Banahan, N Little, M Claassens [capt], D Flatman (D Barnes 69), P Dixon (R Hawkins 61), D Bell (D Wilson 61), S Hooper, D Grewcock, J Fa’amatuainu (C Cracknell 71), J Salvi, B Skirving

STADE FRANÇAIS: H Southwell, J Arias (O Phillips 51), G Bousses, G Messina (M Bergamasco 30), M Gasnier, L Beauxis, J Dupuy, R Roncero [capt], D Szarzewski (M Blin 67), D Attoub (R Gerber 55), T Palmer, P Pape, J Haskell, P Rabadan (B Kayser 24), S Parisse

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

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