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Harlequins 23 Bath Rugby 9

13 Apr 2013
Harlequins 23 Bath Rugby 9

Birthday boy Ugo Monye and England international Danny Care both scored tries as Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins got their stuttering Aviva Premiership defence back on track.

13 points from the boot of replacement Ben Botica added to the Quins tally as the home side ended an unwanted sequence of three straight Aviva Premiership defeats with a much-needed win against Bath.

Difficult conditions made handling and running rugby tough at the Twickenham Stoop as the respective boots of Quins’ Botica and Bath’s Stephen Donald dominated the opening 40 minutes.

O’Shea’s men seemed reserved early on as they looked to overturn an unwanted record of five defeats in their last seven games in Premiership and European action.

The scars of last weekend’s Heineken Cup quarter-final loss against Munster seemed evident as Quins appeared stunted in their early attacking play.

Needing a win to keep up the pressure at the top of the Aviva Premiership in the Race to reach Twickenham and defend their crown it was Bath who seized the early advantage.

World Cup winner Donald, who will leave the Rec this summer, put Bath ahead after only five minutes, while Ollie Devoto stretched the advantage to six points on 21 minutes.

Early injuries to George Robson in the second row and Matt Hopper in the backline inside 24 minutes seemed to disrupt Quins’ set piece and also attacking thrust.

The departure of Hopper did herald the arrival of Botica and the Quins’ replacement struck twice with two penalties inside four minutes to drag the home side level seven minutes from the break.

But Donald had the last laugh of the first half, striking his second penalty of the game to give Bath – desperate for a win to maintain their surge for a top-six finish and with it Heineken Cup rugby next season – a 9-6 half-time lead.

O’Shea must have read his men the riot act at the break as the Quins side that emerged for the second 40 minutes seemed unrecognisable from the first-half.

It took just five minutes for England scrum-half Care – a Lions possible for this summer’s tour to Australia – to burrow over for a decisive and opportunist score, while Botica added the extras to put Quins 13-9 ahead.

Botica continued his fine form with the boot as he stretched Quins’ lead to seven points with a well-struck penalty on 56 minutes.

In difficult conditions both sides continued to play conservative rugby, with Donald and Nick Evans peppering the respective back-lines with high balls.

With attacking rugby at a minimum, the next score seemed certain to come from a defensive lapse and that’s exactly what happened as Bath’s Ollie Woodburn spilled a high ball under no pressure.

Birthday-boy Monye couldn’t believe his luck as the bouncing ball spun towards the Bath in-goal area, giving the England international the easiest of touchdowns for his side’s second score of the game.

The decision was referred to the television match official to check the grounding but Monye’s score was confirmed, with Botica again adding the extras to leave the score at 23-9 to the home side.

The game descended into a forward-dominated battle in the last ten minutes but by that stage Quins had done enough for the win.

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