Lewis Moody prepared for England’s clash with New Zealand next Saturday by playing the full 80 minutes of Bath’s draw with Harlequins.
The Aviva Premiership Rugby points were shared after Quins fly-half Nick Evans and Bath centre Olly Barkley landed two penalties apiece.
All eyes were on Moody ahead of England's opening Autumn International. The England captain had asked to be released from the Red Rose training camp to play at The Stoop just 30 days after suffering an eye injury which left him fearing for his sight.
Moody bruised the retina of his left eye in a collision with Gloucester full-back Charlie Sharples and his vision is still not perfect. But Moody was adamant about getting a game in before tackling the All Blacks across the A316 next weekend and he survived largely unscathed – save for a cut to the head which required treatment after only five minutes.
England also released Matt Banahan to start at outside centre for Bath – a position backs coach Brian Smith believes he could play at Test level in the near future. Smith and England manager Martin Johnson were both in the stands and they will have been more than a little concerned to see Moody disappear for treatment to a head wound, although he returned seven minutes later.
In his temporary absence, Barkley landed a penalty from inside his own half to give Bath the lead but it was Harlequins who had made the more enterprising start. Former Harlequins centre Will Greenwood suggested this weekend that the All Blacks should enter into negotiations with Harlequins to get Evans released for the World Cup.
The Kiwi was the outstanding offensive player on the field in the opening half and he was involved three times as Quins launched a counter-attack deep into the Bath half. Evans collected his own chip to launch Quins' first surge forward but Tom Williams failed to hold on to the final pass – the first of many handling errors from the luckless winger.
Referee Sean Davey was playing advantage and Evans then missed a simple penalty attempt at goal before Moody departed the scene and Barkley landed his long-range attempt.
Moody's return from the blood-bin coincided with the departure of number eight Luke Watson, who limped out of the action.
Williams and Chris Robshaw combined well to collect Evans' cross-field kick and Argentinian lock Tomas Vallejos surged forward after a brilliant one-handed take. Evans cut a brilliant line off scrum-half Karl Dickson but he failed to hold the pass and a certain try went begging.
Barkley missed a simple penalty attempt before Sam Vesty made an individual break into the Quins 22, only to be halted and turned over in one movement by full-back Mike Brown.
Harlequins took almost an hour to get on the scoreboard but they soon drew level with two Evans penalties in the space of five minutes as they began to crank up the pressure. The Harlequins forwards had the edge and number eight Tom Guest was a constant thorn in the Bath side, earning the man-of-the-match award for his driving runs.
Harlequins took advantage of Nick Abendanon's sliced clearance to pitch camp in the Bath 22 and the visitors were eventually penalised for repeated offside to give Evans a simple kick in front of the posts. Harlequins' pressure at the maul inside Bath's 22 earned them another penalty attempt soon after and Evans snapped up the chance to equalise.
Moody was heavily involved in tense closing stages, recovering a bobbling ball on halfway before helping secure lineout possession to set up Vesty for a drop-goal attempt – but the kick dropped wide.