Flatman's dainty morsel keeps Bath at the feast

Bath 16 Montpellier 13

The Recreation Ground

He had waited nine years and 150 games, give or take, to score a try for Bath and yesterday, at a moment when his club was in significant need of a crossing of the opposition whitewash, loose-head prop David Flatman duly delivered. It was a thing of delicate beauty, completed from the traditional front-rower's distance of three millimetres with the daintiest of pirouettes – albeit a pirouette past the Invisible Man – and in the final accounting, it pretty much kept the West Country club in the Heineken Cup.

How much longer they stay involved depends on next month's back-to-back matches with Leinster, the reigning champions, and with the Recreation Ground injury list growing ever longer, those games could easily prove too much of an ask, even though the Dubliners are resigned to defending their title without any input from the recently operated-upon Brian O'Driscoll. But unlike Northampton, Gloucester and London Irish, who have yet to win a game in this season's Premiership, the 1998 winners are at least off the mark.

"If we hadn't won today we'd have been making up the numbers," admitted Stephen Donald, the All Black outside-half whose second-half penalty from long range in the World Cup final ultimately proved the decisive act in New Zealand's pursuit of the Webb Ellis Trophy. "We do have some injuries and that was a pretty young side who finished the game out there, but learning how to win in those circumstances is half the thing, isn't it? We stuffed up against Glasgow in our first match, but maybe losing that game helped us win this one. We certainly toughed it out against a pretty powerful side and it will do the team good."

Donald, making his first start forBath, made quite an impact. He opened his account with an early penalty he could have kicked with his eyes shut, but the cut-out pass he threw off his left hand to create a stroll-over try for the busy young wing Olly Woodburn on eight minutes required a far greater degree of mastery, not least because it took three Montpellier defenders clean out of the game.

The contest was still in its first quarter when the man from Waikato made another contribution, intercepting a dangerous passing movement in his own 22 and running the best part of 80 metres before being hauled down by the covering Martin Bustos Moyano. Dan Hipkiss, who had a very decent game in the Bath midfield, was on hand to continue the attack and after a ferocious ruck on the Montpellier line, in which Donald's direct opponent in the global final in Auckland, François Trinh-Duc, did everything he could to kill the ball stone dead, Flatman performed his Swan Lake routine to open up a 13-point advantage. As Donald was lining up the conversion, which he promptly missed, Trinh-Duc was packed off to the cooler for his indiscretions on the floor.

It seemed for all the world as if the visitors' first Heineken Cup away game – never before have they qualified for European rugby's elite cross-border competition – would go the same way as so many involving the likes of Agen, Bourgoin and Perpignan down the years. Their line-out was barely functioning, their midfield could not find a way of penetrating... hell, even Mamuka Gorgodze, the mighty Georgian forward who had given England so much unmitigated grief in Dunedin in September, was peculiarly quiet. Yet slowly, last season's Top 14 runners-up took a grip of proceedings, thanks largely to the energetic efforts of their two flankers, Rémy Martin, the "deadly nightcap", and captain Fulgence Ouedraogo. Bustos Moyano, who has a kick like a mule, landed a long-range penalty to reduce the arrears and might easily have rattled off two more before the interval, and even though Donald added to Bath's tally early in the second half, the Argentine wing dragged Montpellier right back into it with a try down the left on 46 minutes.

That score was not wholly devoid of controversy, for Thibaut Privat's scoring pass was so far forward it might have been thrown by a gridiron quarterback – a fact that somehow failed to register with Alain Rolland, the Irish referee. Asked what he thought, Donald played the diplomatic card. "We might get the same ref again, so I won't tell you," he said.

Sir Ian McGeechan, the director of rugby at the Rec, was a little more forthcoming. "I've given up looking at these things," he said with a sorry shake of the head. "Sometimes, I think the referee and the touch judges could work better as a three. The touch judges are called assistant referees now. Maybe they should assist the referee a bit more."

With Bath coming under the hammer at the set-pieces – by the end, neither their scrumming nor their line-out work bore much scrutiny – Montpellier could smell victory, especially with Gorgodze developing a taste for the close-quarter conflict and scattering would-be tacklers to all points of the compass. Yet Donald, aided and abetted by the excellent Michael Claassens at scrum-half, kept a cool head, which is pretty much what he is being paid to keep, and nursed his new side home. On this evidence, he will be of inestimable value to the West Countrymen over the long term, even if he does not find a way of guiding them into the quarter-finals of this competition at his first attempt.

Bath: Tries Woodburn, Flatman; Penalties Donald 2.

Montpellier: Try Bustos Moyano; Conversion Bustos Moyano; Penalties Bustos Moyano 2.

Bath N Abendanon; O Woodburn, D Hipkiss, S Vesty (O Barkley 74), T Biggs; S Donald, M Claassens (M McMillan 71); D Flatman (C Beech 55), R Batty (M Lilley 46), D Wilson (A Perenise 55), S Hooper (capt), R Caldwell (D Attwood 65), F Louw, L Moody (G Mercer 65), S Taylor.

Montpellier L Amorosino; M Bustos Moyano (Y Audrin 63), G Doumayrou, P Bosch, J Peyras Loustalet; F Trinh-Duc, J Tomas (B Paillaugue 61); M Nariashvili (N Leieimalefaga 48), A Creevy (R Van Nuuren 59), M Bustos (G Jgenti 59), J Tuineau (D Hancke 68), T Privat (M Matadigo 68), R Martin, F Ouedraogo (capt), M Gorgodze.

Referee A Rolland (Ireland).

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick