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The European Challenge Cup is back in French hands after ASM Clermont Auvergne took the title for the second time in a thrilling game at the Twickenham Stoop.
Trailing 6-3 at half time, the French Championship semi-finalists took charge of the game in the third quarter to score 19 points without reply to build up a commanding lead.
Yet by the end they were hanging on by their fingernails as Bath came bouncing back into the contest with a thrilling solo try from wing Joe Maddock and an Olly Barkley penalty which put the English side within one score of victory.
With 80 minutes up on the clock Bath have one final tilt at glory with a lineout in the Clermont 22. They drove it to within a few metres, bombarded the French line, but failed to come up with the score they needed to clinch a place in next season’s Heineken Cup.
And so the trophy went back to France for the first time since Pau secured it in 2000 – the long line of English success finally broken.
A tense first half saw two Barkley penalties keep Bath ahead of one from ASM outside half Brock James.
But the French men came out of the blocks far sharper in the second half and three tries in 20 minutes put them in the ascendancy.
Left wing Julian Malzieu used his strength and power to race 30 meters for the first one after a delightful chip and re-gather full back Anthony Floch had created the opening.
James converted that one but saw his attempt to improve Tony Marsh’s corner try bounce back off the crossbar.
Then James unlocked the Bath defence with a crafty chip over the bath defence in the 22 and he converted his own try to give ASM a 16-point lead.
With the scoreboard against them, and time running out, Bath became more dynamic and direct in their approach and Maddock scored a brilliant solo try which Barkley converted, to bring them back into contention.
Five minutes from time Barkley kicked a penalty to bring the Guinness Premiership side within one score of victory, but they fell just short and Clermont made it two wins in three Challenge Cup finals.