Bath missed the chance for a European Challenge Cup final against Leicester after shooting himself in the foot against Montpellier.
Stuart Hooper’s men had the home advantage and scored first, but their good work was undone by a disastrous roster – allowing the French to take their place at Twickenham on May 21.
Time and time again, Bath moved into a position to injure Montpellier – dropping a third of the game into their opponents’ 22 – to painfully spit possession along the sidelines.
Captain Charlie Ewels said, “The game always gives you the best feedback and when you deliver a set piece like that that’s what decides the games.
“The group worked really hard for it and worked really hard to be here, so we’re emptied. And I have to raise my hand.
“I’m leading the roster, it was up to me to solve the problem better than me. They put pressure on us and we just didn’t deal with it. “
Bath started off better, tearing apart opponents who hadn’t played in three weeks and being rewarded with a fourth-minute try from Tom Dunn.
At that point, Montpellier’s heads were turning and if the home side hadn’t blown up two line-ups they could have built a significant advantage.
But the inconsistencies that have plagued the West Countrymen for too long have once again proved their downfall – allowing Montpellier to take control thanks to backs Benoit Paillaugue and Alex Lozowski.
Lozowski, on loan from the Saracens, made two superb line breaks to put Bath back on their heels and Paillaugue then got to work on the scoreboard.
At halftime, the scrum-half had a penalty hat-trick to his name and an assist for Yacouba Camara’s 23rd-minute try, throwing a smart chip at Vincent Rattez who slipped the silver pass to inside his flanker.
Bath was in a hole and, unlike Leicester on Friday night, were unable to turn things around in the third quarter despite a phase after a pressure phase, which resulted in a yellow card for supporting the opposition Enzo Forletta.
Frustration was clear in the pride of Lions aspiring Baths, seeing their touring hopes dwindle ahead of Warren Gatland and his two coaching assistants.
They kept working but eight line-out losses were just too much to absorb in a major semi-final.
Montpellier sent Springboks Handre Pollard and Bismarck du Plessis, World Cup winners, to defend their lead by one scoring – and it was Du Plessis who scored a critical turnover on his own line.
When Pollard threw a penalty in the last minute, Bath’s fate was sealed.
BATH – Try: Thin. Against: Spencer. Pen: Spencer.
MONTPELLIER – Try: Camara. Against: Paillaugue. Pens: Paillaugue 3, Pollard.