Fred­die’s clanger

Burns snatches de­feat from jaws of vic­tory as he cel­e­brates try too early and has ball knocked from his hand

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Gavin Mairs RUGBY NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT at the Recre­ation Ground

It was a car-crash mo­ment that is likely to end up in the “what hap­pened next?” sec­tion of BBC’s A Ques­tion of Sport, but for Fred­die Burns and Bath it was no laugh­ing mat­ter.

With the game, and pos­si­bly Bath’s hopes of mak­ing it out of a ridicu­lously dif­fi­cult Cham­pi­ons Cup pool on the line, Burns had the ball knocked out of his hand as he pre­ma­turely cel­e­brated what would have been the win­ning try.

To add to the em­bar­rass­ment, mo­ments ear­lier Burns had missed a penalty in front of the posts which, if the ball had not re­bounded off the up­right, would have also got Bath across the line in this en­thralling con­test.

You had to feel for Burns, who held his head in his hands in de­spair mo­ments later when he had been sub­sti­tuted by di­rec­tor of rugby Todd Black­ad­der, who must have fumed at the profli­gacy which con­demned his side to a third suc­ces­sive de­feat.

Bath travel to Wasps next week­end and re­al­is­ti­cally only a vic­tory will pre­vent their Eu­ro­pean cam­paign end­ing be­fore the end of this month.

“We had a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties. At times, we could have [had] a bit more pres­sure on them, but all in all, we prob­a­bly did enough to win that game,” said Black­ad­der. “It’s dis­ap­point­ing. Fred­die will be hurt­ing, there is no doubt about that. Now is the time to rally be­hind him and sup­port him. What’s done is done but what hap­pens next is re­ally im­por­tant.

“You just need to nail those points. I don’t think it will af­fect his play. He is pretty tough – [he will] take this on the chin and ac­knowl­edge it. Fred­die made an er­ror, but that is of­ten where the great­est learn­ing comes from. He will be back on the horse ready to go next week, I’ve no doubt about that. We missed so many op­por­tu­ni­ties. There were a lot of er­rors.”

Maxime Medard, the Toulouse wing who knocked the ball out of Burns’s hand, had scored a first-half try fol­low­ing a great off­load by lock Joe Tekori. He ad­mit­ted he was sur­prised by Burns slow­ing down as he ran be­hind the posts and blow­ing a kiss in cel­e­bra­tion.

“He had a lot of time to score but he hes­i­tated,” said Medard. “I thought it was a dream. I tar­geted his arm be­cause he only had the ball in one hand. I re­mem­ber it hap­pened to Vin­cent Clerc. You watch sevens and it hap­pens. On Fri­day af­ter­noon I ac­tu­ally went for a cof­fee with Fred­die be­cause he is friends with Maxime Mer­moz.”

Black­ad­der must feel the world is against him right now as, in the other key mo­ment in the game, he lost his goto player Jamie Roberts to a con­cus­sion in­jury at the end of the first half af­ter a head high tackle by Toulouse No8 Jerome Kaino that looked wor­thy of a red card given the new crack­down on such in­ci­dents.

Kaino re­ceived a yel­low card de­spite hit­ting Roberts in the head area while up­right in the tackle, and Bath could man­age just a sole penalty by Burns with their ex­tra man.

It came just mo­ments af­ter Sofi­ane Guitoune had re­duced the deficit to 17-12 af­ter a daz­zling, dou­ble side­step by South Africa wing Ch­es­lin Kolbe.

“We lose a player for the rest of the game, and they lose a player for 10 min­utes,” Black­ad­der. “It’s ex­actly the sce­nario why they have sanc­tions, to pro­tect the player. It was dis­ap­point­ing to lose Jamie, be­cause he was hav­ing such a bril­liant game. We will raise that. It’s dis­ap­point­ing.”

In truth, Burns’s bloop­ers were only one el­e­ment of a flawed per­for­mance by Bath, who lacked con­sis­tency and di­rec­tion against a Toulouse side who had enough fire­power to hit them hard on the counter-at­tack.

Bath had scored tries by Burns and Jamie Roberts dur­ing a pur­ple patch mid­way through the first half that sug­gested the Premier­ship side had been on course for a com­fort­able vic­tory.

But the home side would not score again af­ter Burns landed his sec­ond penalty in the 47th minute and it was Toulouse’s sus­tained surge deep into the sec­ond half that proved piv­otal.

A yel­low card for Bath flanker Tom El­lis for a tip-tackle on lock Ryn­hardt El­stadt al­lowed Thomas Ramos to land a penalty and then a long pass by the Toulouse full-back put Guitoune over for his sec­ond try. The con­ver­sion by Ramos gave his side the lead and de­spite Bath’s late rally, Burns let a vic­tory lit­er­ally slip from his fin­gers.

Scores 3-0 Burns pen; 3-5 Medard try; 3-7 Ramos con; 8-7 Roberts try; 10-7 Burns con; 15-7 Burns try; 17-7 Burns con; 17-12 Guitoune try; 20-12 Burns pen; 20-15 Ramos pen; 20-20 Guitoune try; 20-22 Ramos con. Bath F Burns (T Homer 77); S Roko­duguni, J Wil­li­son, J Roberts (M Wright 38), D Atkins; R Pri­est­land, C Cook (M Green 52); N Catt (J v Rooyen 59), T Dunn (J Walker 59), H Thomas (A Perenise 58), D Attwood, L Char­teris (E Stooke 52), T El­lis, F Louw (S Un­der­hill 71), Z Mercer. Toulouse T Ramos; C Kolbe, S Guitoune, M Mer­moz (P Gayraud 78), M Medard; Z Holmes (A Dupont 44), S Bezy (R Nta­mack 59); L Poin­tud (C Castets 57), L Ghi­ral­dini (J Marc­hand 42-51, 55), C Fau­muina, F Ver­haeghe, I Tekori, F Cros (L Madaule 68), R El­stadt, J Kaino. Ref­eree A Brace (Ire­land).

All alone: Fred­die Burns is dis­traught af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle

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