Tom Williams dives over for his second try of the game as Harlequins sealed their spot in the LV= Cup final
9 March 2013, 02:17 pm ::
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
Harlequins 31 Bath Rugby 23
Tom Williams crossed twice as Harlequins' young guns sealed their place in the LV= Cup final by edging out Bath Rugby in an action-packed encounter at the Stoop.
Tom Guest, Williams twice and the impressive Karl Dickson all crossed for the hosts while Francois Louw and Nick Abendanon were Bath's try-scorers.
Tom Heathcote's impressive kicking from the tee threatened to stage a fight back for Gary Gold's side in the second-half but this superb young Quins side held on to secure their place at Sixways where they await the winner of Sale Sharks v Saracens in Sunday's second semi-final.
The clash between these two sides at the Rec in November had not yielded a single try as Stephen Donald kicked Bath to an impressive win.
But both sides had clearly set out their stall to attack at the Stoop, the likes of Matt Banahan for Bath and Ross Chisholm for Quins signalling their intent with ball in hand early on.
The first try did not look far away and when it came in the tenth minute it was a move straight off the training ground from Conor O'Shea's side.
Clean lineout ball was spread flat from Dickson to Ben Botica and the Kiwi's no-look inside ball to Williams set the winger clear, he offloaded to Maurie Fa'asavalu who put Tom Guest under the posts, Botica adding the extras for a 7-0 lead.
Gold's side were in need of a response and when Dave Attwood found a hole in midfield to rumble clear ten minutes later a Bath score looked on the cards.
But as the ball was spread wide Kyle Eastmond's speculative pass was intercepted by Williams and he cantered the length of the field to dot down under the posts, Botica again on target with the conversion.
14-0 flattered the hosts but Bath needed a score to settle their nerves and it was the forwards who provided it just before the half-hour mark, Louw barrelling over at the back of a rolling maul from a close-range lineout, Heathcote's conversion reducing it to a seven point game.
The next score was always going to be crucial and the effervescent Dickson was the man leading the charge for the hosts.
His initial break from halfway took Quins deep in the Bath 22 and after kicking to the corner instead of taking three points on offer it was the scrum-half who dived over from short range, Botica still unerring from the tee for a 21-7 lead.
The scoring was still not over in the first half however as Heathcote slotted over a penalty with time expiring to send the teams in at 21-10.
Immediately after the interval the Scotland fly-half was at it again, making no mistake with his second penalty of the match to reduce the gap to eight points.
Bath continued to press but Quins were always a threat and in the 53rd minute they grabbed their fourth try of the game, again in fine style.
Botica was continuing to pull the strings, another no-look pass finding man-of-the-match Luke Wallace down the right, the flanker spinning out of a tackle before offloading out of the back of his hand to Williams who went over for his second of the game.
Botica's remarkable kicking continued as he added the extras from the right touchline to put Quins almost out of sight at 28-13.
If Gold's troops were going to stay in the game the next score had to be theirs and when Sam Smith was sent to the sin bin just before the hour mark the chance was there for the visitors.
The ball was spread first left and then right and they finally made their extra man count as Nick Abendanon crashed over from close in, Heathcote slotting the conversion to make it 28-20.
Bath were really starting to build pressure now and with Smith still in the bin it was the West Country outfit who struck again, Heathcote notching another penalty for 28-23.
But this topsy-turvy game swung back into Quins' favour before their winger had even returned from the bin as Bath prop Nathan Catt saw yellow for not allowing Dickson the full ten yards from a quick-tap penalty.
Botica slotted the subsequent penalty as well to leave them 31-23 to the good against the 14-men of Bath.
The last ten minutes saw Quins cleverly take the sting out of the game and with Catt still in the sin bin the London side's scrum dominated as Quins held on to keep their hopes of an unprecedented treble on track.
The LV= Cup Final, 3pm, Sunday 17 March, Sixways Stadium, Worcester. Tickets are on sale now from £20 each at Ticketmaster.co.uk or by calling 0844 844 0444. (Tickets will be on sale for 24 hours a day.)