Gold pleased to secure top spot with a game left
BATH put their Aviva Premiership blues behind them to secure a place in the Amlin Cup quarter-finals with a hard-fought 19-16 victory over French visitors Agen at The Rec.
Gary Gold's side had failed to win any of their previous four league outings, but the latest continental victory means they cannot be overhauled at the top of Pool Four ahead of the final group game at home to Bucharest Wolves.
The two sides were evenly matched throughout as lashing rain made flowing rugby difficult, but Tom Heathcote's penalty midway through the second half proved decisive, with the home side holding on for 20 minutes to secure the spoils.
Although pleased with victory, Gold was disappointed that Bath failed to put their visitors away when in control of the contest.
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"With what's gone on in the last couple of weeks and how disappointed we've been, it's good to come away with a win and give ourselves a home qualification in the quarter-finals," said Gold.
"I'll take the positives, but I don't want to cover over the fact we've got to set ourselves standards that are higher than that.
"I think there were opportunities in the first half when we could have closed the game out.
"We had more than enough opportunities and should have had better reward when we visited their 22 on a couple of occasions.
"We panicked a little bit, we just have to hold on to the ball and look after it. We needed to keep our composure and keep exerting the pressure.
"Going in at half-time with a 13-9 lead, I was frustrated and disappointed because we knew that was going to get their tails up. We did a hell of a lot better in the second half because they really came for us."
Fly-half Heathcote missed a second-minute penalty from 45 metres to put Bath ahead, but broke the deadlock when given another chance 20 metres closer soon afterwards.
Agen counterpart Raphael Lagarde levelled the scores after six minutes when Francois Louw was penalised for a high tackle.
Parity did not last long, however, with Heathcote booting the hosts ahead once more.
It took 20 minutes for either side to get a glimpse of the tryline, with Agen's Belisario Agulla denied a score in the corner by Bath namesake Horacio after a good move. The Top 14 side did not return empty-handed, however, with Lagarde bisecting the posts to level the scores.
An error from the Frenchmen then led to the game's first try, with Lagarde seeing his clearing kick fire straight into the midriff of scrum-half Alexis Bales and deflect towards the tryline.
Agen survived the initial charge for the ball, but after sustained pressure, prop Paul James smashed over the whitewash from close range. Heathcote converted in front of the posts.
Lagarde added some atonement for his mistake, cutting the half-time deficit to four points with another penalty, but the fly-half's topsy-turvy afternoon took another twist when he was sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball five minutes into the second half.
Heathcote landed the resulting penalty, but they were the only points Bath were able to score when they held a numerical advantage.
Three minutes after Lagarde's reintroduction, Agen were on level terms. Back-row star Ueleni Fono dived over the tryline after sustained pressure, with the returning fly-half's kick ensuring nothing separated the sides with 22 minutes remaining.
The decisive moment arrived four minutes later, with Heathcote landing his fifth kick of the afternoon to put the hosts back ahead, and they were able to survive a frenzied close, which was disrupted by a flurry of substitutions.