Belleau's Toulon cameo bails out Ashton


Paris (AFP)

Toulon's up-and-coming France international halfback Anthony Belleau produced a stunning cameo performance to seal a 24-20 European Champions Cup victory over Bath on Saturday which saved Chris Ashton's bacon.

Belleau came on as a replacement for Francois Trinh-Duc with seven minutes to play and put Toulon back into what proved to be a decisive lead when he gathered his own dink past the Bath defence to touch down for a try he also converted.

The 21-year-old's efforts made up for a comical mistake by ex-England winger Chris Ashton, who was left holding his head in horror as a sliced clearance kick found its way to Jonathan Joseph for a gift of a try.

Belleau's effort brought the curtain down on an engrossing game, the result of which left Toulon unbeaten after their opening three Pool 5 matches, and Bath returning to England with a losing bonus point, in second.

Bath scored an outstanding opening try, Aled Brew sizzling down his left wing, fending off Josua Tuisova and offloading inside to Anthony Watson. Rhys Priestland converted to add to an earlier penalty.

Three-time European champions Toulon came racing back into the game when Ma'a Nonu rounded off a sustained period of pressure. A deft flick on by Mathieu Bastareaud saw his All Black centre partner into the clear and under the posts, Trinh-Duc converting.

The home side's defence remained narrow and another long Joseph pass found Brew in space, the Welshman again outstripping Fijian Tuisova, Priestland booting a second penalty as Toulon subsequently infringed to leave it 13-7 at half-time.

Bath's fortunes changed on the 50-minute mark. First Wales No 8 Taulupe Faletau went off with a nasty looking knee injury and then scrum-half Chris Cook was yellow carded.

His direct opponent Alby Mathewson took immediate advantage as Toulon opted for a scrum penalty, the four-time capped All Black powering over from close range. Trinh-Duc converting to hand Toulon the lead.

A comedy of errors, however, gifted Bath a comeback try. A quickly-taken line-out saw the ball find Ashton behind his own line, his botched kick was gathered by Joseph for a soft try. Priestland made no mistake with the extras.

Trinh-Duc kicked a penalty with 15 minutes to play and the remainder of the game saw Toulon camped in Bath's 22m area.

The pressure told as Belleau showed all his class to collect his own grubber past a rush defence and touch down for a third, winning try he also converted.