Stephen Donald won the battle of the former All Black fly-halves as he inspired Bath to a hard-fought 21-18 win over Nick Evans’ Harlequins in the Aviva Premiership.
Donald, who kicked New Zealand to World Cup victory last year, chalked up all 21 points for Bath, whose resilience ensured Quins suffered only their third defeat of the season.
Evans was equally impressive and also scored all of his team’s points but Bath edged out the Londoners thanks to Donald’s unerring accuracy.
Defending champions Harlequins began on the front foot and it was Evans who broke the deadlock on five minutes, slotting his first penalty of the night shortly before Donald missed his first attempt.
The scrappy opening to this old-fashioned arm wrestle continued with only Nick Abendanon catching the eye through the mist that engulfed the Rec but Donald tied the scores on 16 minutes.
And on 20 minutes, Bath should have scored the first try of the match when Matt Banahan charged down Quins full-back Tom Willams’ kick and gathered but his pass to Semesa Rokoduguni was wayward and the Fijian failed to gather with the try-line beckoning.
Evans made Bath swiftly pay by notching his second penalty of the night on 23 minutes but Donald responded four minutes before the break and made it three, two minutes, later, to give the West Country side a 9-6 lead at the half-time interval.
Donald then pulled his side to 12-6 ahead before a sparking run from Quins scrum-half Karl Dickson almost resulted in the first try but he was held up just short.
Evans then missed a woeful penalty attempt before trimming the deficit to three once again after Bath were harshly penalised.
Evans then levelled things up when Guy Mercer was pinged for a late tackle on 61 minutes and again the two fly-halves traded a further penalty each.
Matt Banahan then thought he had scored the first try of the match after Tom Biggs was tackled just short of the line and the powerful centre tried to barge his way over from the base of the ruck, but could not ground the ball over the line.
Referee JP Doyle had spotted an earlier infringement however and Donald put Bath back ahead before taking the lead to 21-15 with his seventh penalty from eight attempts on 73 minutes, soon after he had survived a scare when Nick Easter charged down his kick.
Evans and Quins weren’t finished there however and he notched his sixth penalty of the night to set up a grandstand finish but Bath held firm in a frantic finale with some typically resolute defence to secure victory.