Biarritz full-back Iain Balshaw scored two tries against Bath on Saturday to ensure that last season's runners-up qualified from the group stage of the Heineken Cup.
AFP - Two tries by former England international Iain Balshaw inspired last season's beaten finalists Biarritz to a 26-19 victory over outclassed English outfit Bath on Saturday and ensure they finish top of their European Cup pool.
Biarritz managed to get their bonus point with four tries and edge 1999 champions Ulster - who thrashed Italian side Aironi 43-6 in Italy with South African flanker Pedrie Wannenburg scoring three of the six tries - in their pool courtesy of their head to head record.
Ulster, though, at least have the consolation of a place in the last eight for the first time since 1999 as one of the two best runners-up.
Balshaw, who won the last of his caps for England nearly three years ago - said that he and his side were slowly rediscovering their form.
"The most important thing was to qualify for the last eight," said the former Gloucester star.
"We spoke at half-time of the possiblity we could score four tries (for the bonus).
"It seemed a very open game but we made a lot of mistakes, at the same time we had to have an open game to give ourselves the best opportunity to play here in the quarters.
"However, we will have to wait till tomorrow (after Sunday's matches) to see what our fate in terms of whether we are at home or not.
"Of course to beat Bath with four tries will be good for our confidence. We know we have the quality players to take us forward to the end of the season."
Biarritz had created a comfortable cushion by the half hour mark over their English rivals with two converted tries through Dimitri Yachvili and England World Cup winning back Balshaw - both of which Yachvili slotted over the conversions.
Balshaw's was the best of the pair, the 2003 World Cup winner receiving the ball well outside the 22 but showed an amazing turn of pace to beat the covering Bath defence and score in the corner.
England prop Duncan Bell had had a torrid opening 30 minutes under constant pressure from grizzled French veteran Sylvain Marconnet, whose return to top form earned him a recall to the national squad this week, and he eventually cracked and was sin-binned by the referee for bringing down the scrum.
However, Bath somehow managed to stave off the Biarritz pressure by gaining a penalty themselves and Olly Barkley, who committed himself to the club this week rather than moving abroad to French champions Clermont, cleared the danger.
Biarritz, though, grabbed their third try of the match soon after the beginning of the second-half as 31-year-old man of the match Balshaw went over showing that perhaps he has returned to the peak of his old form after suffering a succession of injuries - Yachvili converted.
Bath rallied briefly by scoring a try of their own scrum-half Michael Claassens - making his 100th appearance for the club - feeding lock Stuart Hooper who bundled over, but with just over an hour gone the hosts wrapped up the match and more importantly the bonus point guaranteeing them finishing top of the pool with a fourth try.
Biarritz' Zimbabwe-born American international winger Takudzwa Ngwenya was the man to score as he received the ball just inside the 22 but made light work of a fairly feeble attempt to tackle him and touched down for his fifth try of the season.
The visitors at least got two more tries to salvage some pride in what has been an underwhelming campaign as Tom Biggs beat two tackles to go over and then he added a second on the stroke of the full-time whistle.
Date created : 2011-01-22