Bath and Toulouse make quarters after draw

Bath 3 Toulouse 3

Bath 3 Toulouse 3

Bath and Toulouse both secured Heineken Cup quarter-final places in a Recreation Ground swamp – but they blew their chances of prized home advantage.

Bath, the 1998 European champions, will visit fierce rivals Leicester in April after winning Pool Five.

Three-time tournament winners Toulouse, meanwhile, must travel to face Cardiff Blues.

The quarter-final picture is completed by reigning champions Munster hosting Blues’ fellow Welsh challengers the Ospreys, with Harlequins hosting Leinster.

Appalling weather conditions – hail, rain and strong winds – ruined hopes for a running spectacle between two of Europe’s most adventurous teams.

Scoring was restricted to a penalty apiece, with Toulouse fly-half Jean-Baptiste Elissalde cancelling out his opposite number Butch James’ second-minute strike.

Elissalde though missed five kicks at goal – a wasteful performance on a day of few opportunities.

A home quarter-final beckoned for the winners, yet neither side could conquer punishing elements.

Bath did well to regroup following the first-half departure of their injured captain Michael Lipman, but Toulouse proved beyond doubt they are more than just a fair weather, top-of-the-ground team.

They also kept the French flag flying in Europe this season, preventing a first Heineken quarter-final schedule without involvement from across the Channel.

Duncan Bell replaced Matt Stevens in the Bath front row following Stevens’ positive drugs test, while Shaun Berne was handed a start as Alex Crockett’s midfield partner.

Toulouse, meanwhile, fielded a side packed with international stars as they looked to keep alive French interest in a tournament that had already seen the likes of Stade Francais, Biarritz and Clermont Auvergne crash out.

A pre-match hailstorm made conditions treacherous, although both teams had a comfort blanket of guaranteed quarter-finalist status following Wasps’ lunchtime defeat in Castres.

Surface water appeared on the pitch within 10 minutes of kick-off, but Bath began strongly as James booted them into a 3-0 lead.

They suffered a major setback in the 17th minute though when Lipman was felled after an accidental collision.

There was a lengthy delay while he received treatment before being helped from the field and replaced by James Scaysbrook.

And it was yet another potential back-row blow for England manager Martin Johnson, who has lost injured flankers Lewis Moody and Tom Rees from his Six Nations plans and would have identified Lipman as a possible starter against Italy on Saturday week.

Elissalde hauled Toulouse level, but then missed three penalties in 11 minutes on an afternoon when clear-cut scoring chances were at a premium.

Toulouse dominated the territorial battle, yet Bath rallied as half-time approached, exerting pressure after wing Joe Maddock charged down his opposite number Cedric Heymans’ attempted clearance.

Bath looked to attack off the back of the resulting five-metre scrum, only for Toulouse to defend strongly and ensure a 3-3 interval scoreline.

Bath, having seen their scrum endure a difficult first 40 minutes, sent on prop David Flatman for David Barnes, and the home side immediately won a strike against the head.

A period of prolonged pressure followed, yet resilient Toulouse defence frustrated Bath, and the scoreline remained tied entering the final quarter.

Elissalde missed his fifth penalty chance from six attempts, and the game remained in the balance with a home quarter-final guaranteed for the winners.

South African Gaffie du Toit went on for Elissalde 17 minutes from time, but there was no sign of the deadlock being broken, even though the wind and rain had relented.

Bath launched a desperate attempt to steal victory at the death, going through 19 passages of play inside Toulouse’s 22.

But they could not give James the drop-goal platform he required, eventually conceding a penalty and allowing Toulouse a chance to successfully close out the game.

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