Champions Cup: Bath’s Freddie Burns pays price for premature celebration

Freddie Burns, centre, of Bath cuts a dejected figure at the final whistle. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Freddie Burns, centre, of Bath cuts a dejected figure at the final whistle. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images
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Freddie Burns has described his late horror show in Bath’s 22-20 Heineken Champions Cup defeat against Toulouse as “an ultimate low”.

Burns missed a 74th-minute penalty from in front of the posts and then blew a try barely 60 seconds later after breaking clear and crossing the Toulouse line before losing control of the ball under pressure from Maxime Medard, who nudged Burns’ arm.

Burns even blew a kiss as he appeared to enjoy an unopposed run-in, but it all went horribly wrong as he failed to touch down and Bath were left with an uphill struggle to qualify from a group that also includes Champions Cup holders Leinster.

Burns later tweeted: “Love this sport for the highs and the lows. Today was an ultimate low and a mistake I’ll learn from. I’ll continue to give my best as I always do. Lastly just apologies to the boys and the supporters for the mistake. I’ll bounce back... thanks for the support”

Captain Rhys Priestland believes Bath’s early celebrations must be stamped out, with Burns’ blunder coming just six weeks after Bath full-back Tom Homer was guilty of not putting the ball down when over the line during a 17-10 Gallagher Premiership loss to Bristol.

“We have got far bigger issues than him [Burns] dropping the ball over the line or missing that kick,” Priestland said. “We should have been good enough to not have to rely on one try or a kick here and there.

“It is probably something we need to speak about as a squad – celebrating before we score tries.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am not pointing the figure at Freddie. He hasn’t cost us the game, we weren’t good enough, but as a squad, I just can’t believe we celebrate before we put the ball down.

“I honestly don’t know what boys think they are going to gain by doing it. For me that is not negotiable. We can’t do that again this season.

“Freddie is a big character, and he is going to bounce back. I hope he comes into training next week with the swagger he always brings.”

Medard revealed that on Friday he had coffee with Burns, who left the pitch in tears, as he is friends with the Frenchman’s Toulouse colleague Maxime Mermoz.

Reflecting on the non-try incident, Medard said: “I was surprised. He had a lot of time to score, but he hesitated.

“I targeted his arm because he only had the ball in one hand. You watch sevens, when the players are really cool, and it happens.”

Scotland international stand-off Finn Russell, pictured, kicked two conversions as Racing 92 opened their Heineken Champions Cup Pool 4 campaign with a dramatic and controversial 14-13 victory over Scarlets.

The French side were trailing 13-7 in the final minutes when referee Matthew Carley awarded Racing a penalty try and also sent scrum-half Gareth Davies to the sin bin, and from there, Racing held on to win.

Racing’s two scores, one via Baptiste Chouzenoux, came at the end of the first and second halves with a losing bonus point being little consolation for Scarlets, last year’s semi-finalists, who led for most of the match.

Exeter’s European Champions Cup campaign got off to a disappointing start after they were held to a 10-10 draw in a titanic struggle at Sandy Park by Munster.

Luke Cowan-Dickie scored Exeter’s only try with Gareth Steenson adding a penalty and a conversion.

CJ Stander scored for Munster with Joey Carbery kicking a penalty and a conversion.

At the Kingspan Stadium, second-half tries from Alan O’Connor, Will Addison and Jacob Stockdale earned Ulster a 24-10 win over Leicester in their Heineken Champions Cup opener.