Matt Garvey is relishing facing Europe’s best as Bath Rugby set up a Champions Cup quarter-final with Leinster, after doggedly seeing off a late surge from Glasgow Warriors to win 20-15 at the Rec.
Alex Dunbar’s fine score put Glasgow in front, but the boot of George Ford brought the scores back to 7-6 at the interval.
Richie Vernon touched down to extend the Warriors’ lead, but two decisive penalty tries either side of a Finn Russell penalty swung the tie Bath’s way.
And man-of-the-match Garvey admitted it was all hands to the pump in a frantic final few minutes that saw the Scottish side throw everything at the Bath line.
“We knew it was going to be tough and we didn’t really start the first half how we wanted to go,” he said. “We spoke at half-time about staying in the arm wrestle.
“I thought our front five were awesome in contesting the scrums and, in the end, when we managed to get our noses in front it was just about holding on.
“Great credit to our boys, but also to Glasgow who made it tough. We knew they are an expansive side who like fast ball and play with tempo.
“They were extremely dangerous and we just had to stay in the battle, tire them down and work to our strengths.
“It didn’t matter what was going on elsewhere. In those dying seconds we were just focused on our game, as if we had conceded and lost nothing else mattered anyway.
“I love these match-ups. It is great experience for me and I keep learning off guys like Francois Louw, who is a credit to us. To play against such top opposition is fantastic.”
But it was not all good news for the Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs as Saracens went down 18-6 in France to Clermont Auvergne.
Two penalties from Charlie Hodgson were all Sarries could muster in response to tries from Nick Abendanon and Vincent Debaty for the hosts.
The result sees Mark McCall’s men progress to the quarter-finals regardless, on points difference, where they will face Racing Metro away from home.
Perhaps more worrying for Saracens and England fans was the injury sustained by Owen Farrell ahead of the Six Nations next month; the fly-half was forced off after just 18 minutes after twisting his knee.
Sale Sharks had a disappointing day in Ireland and could not end their European campaign in style, as they were humbled 65-10 by Munster.
Tom Arscott grabbed the only try for Sale, while the hosts ran riot in the second half with eight tries and an unanswered 52 points.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s results confirmed Wasps would get their chance in the quarter-finals after they fought back to get a 20-20 draw with Leicester.
Dai Young’s side went into the break 20-6 behind, but were rewarded for digging deep with a quarter-final clash at French and European champions Toulon.
Converted tries from Matt Mullan and Nathan Hughes drew them level but Andy Goode sent his last-gasp drop-goal wide to leave their fate out of their own hands.
“I was proud of the display in the second half and proud of the players,” said Young.
“Coming into half-time with that mountain to climb, against such a quality outfit, it could have been quite easy to throw in the towel.
“You can’t doubt the character of this group. It wasn’t quite enough to get what we wanted, but we’ve got to be proud of the effort.”
That result meant Harlequins’ hopes of reaching the last eight were dashed, but Conor O’Shea’s side were clearly not deterred.
Tries from Joe Marler, Charlie Walker, Danny Care, Jack Clifford, Mark Lambert, Marland Yarde and George Lowe saw them coast to a 47-19 victory at Castres Olympique.
Northampton Saints are in the last eight but they were denied a home quarter-final by Racing Metro, losing 32-8 at home to the French side.
And Leicester Tigers finished their European campaign in frustrating fashion, losing 26-7 at Ulster with just a converted Adam Thompstone try to show for their efforts.
European Rugby Champions Cup: Semi-final draw
Toulon/Wasps v Leinster/Bath Rugby
Clermont/Northampton Saints v Racing Metro/Saracens
European Rugby Champions Cup results
Bath Rugby 20 Glasgow Warriors 15
Tries: Penalty 2
Conversions: Ford, Devoto
Penalties: Ford (2)
Tries: Dunbar, Vernon
Referee: John Lacey
Clermont Auvergne 18 Saracens 6
Tries: Abendanon, Debaty
Penalties: Lopez, James
Penalties: Hodgson 2
Referee: George Clancy
Munster 65 Sale 10
Tries: Zebo 2, Earls, Penalty, Howard, Conway 2, O'Donnell, Williams
Conversions: Keatley 4, Hanrahan 3
Penalties: Keatley 2
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Wasps 20 Leinster 20
Tries: Mullan, Hughes
Conversions: Goode 2
Penalties: Goode 2
Tries: McFadden, Boss
Conversions: Madigan 2
Penalties: Madigan, Gopperth
Referee: Jerome Garces
Castres Olympique 19 Harlequins 47
Tries: Dupont, Cabannes, Beattie
Conversions: Dumora 2
Tries: Marler, Walker, Care, Clifford, Lambert, Yarde, Lowe
Conversions: Evans 6
Referee: Leighton Hodges
Northampton Saints 8 Racing Metro 32
Tries: Imhoff 2, Lapeyre, Roberts
Conversions: Machenaud 2, Dambielle
Penalties: Machenaud 2
Referee: Nigel Owens
Ulster 26 Leicester Tigers 7
Tries: Cave 3, Gilroy
Conversions: Pienaar 3
Referee: Pascal Gauzerre