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Match Report: Harlequins 35 Bath Rugby 28

11 Mar 2016
Match Report: Harlequins 35 Bath Rugby 28

Harlequins returned to winning ways against struggling Bath Rugby in Aviva Premiership Rugby 35-28 thanks to a two-try showing from flyer Charlie Walker and all-star performance from Nick Easter.

Conor O'Shea's side had slumped to a lowly eighth position during the Six Nations after a poor run of results but a masterful showing in the loose from veteran Easter and the clinical finishing of Walker set up the much-needed win. 

Defeats to Wasps and Sale Sharks meant Harlequins had lost four of their last five matches prior to kick-off but it was the home side that started like an express train.

Poor form and performances were firmly put to one side as they raced into an 8-0 lead inside the opening ten minutes of the game.

First Ben Botica took advantage of poor Bath discipline in the opening three minutes to strike a long range penalty.

Bath’s Ollie Devoto, fresh from England duty with Eddie Jones’ men during the early rounds of the Six Nations, then saw a pass intercepted and Harry Sloan ran in from distance to score – Botica missed the conversion.

The visitors seemed certain to reply inside the opening minutes, Matt Banahan broke the gain-line to set up the opportunity but with the whitewash beckoning Horacio Agulla was somehow tackled by Ross Chisholm.

The visitors did eventually make their pressure pay as Harlequins’ ill-discipline was punished and Tom Homer took full advantage with a penalty to make the score 8-3.

Bath have conceded more penalties than any other side in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season and their poor discipline continued on 12 minutes and Botica was the lucky recipient this time as he struck a three-pointer, before Homer replied for the visitors just seconds later to leave the score at 11-6.  

Harlequins beat Bath 38-28 at the Recreation Ground in Round three and have not achieved an Aviva Premiership Rugby double over them since the 2011/12 season but after their fast start at the Stoop this statistic seemed certain to change.

The home side should have extended their lead just after the 20-minute mark but after a wonderful Nick Easter turnover and then a Kyle Sinckler break, they knocked on with the try-line agonisingly in sight.

Next to go close was Mathew Luamanu just after the half hour mark but the blindside flanker was held up just inches short of the Bath try-line after a flowing move from the home side.

Bath’s charge was made even harder on 34 minutes as scrum-half Chris Cook was penalised for a deliberate knock-on just yards from his own line and was sin-binned, allowing Botica to punish the visitors with a penalty to make the score 14-6.

And just seconds before the half-time whistle Quins added their second try of the evening as Walker scored in the corner and Botica added the extras to make the score 21-6.

It got worse for Bath inside the opening five minutes of the second half as the visitors conceded two further scores and with it effectively the game.

First Walker raced in from distance just after the interval to score his second of the evening, taking advantage of Bath’s poor handling, before former Australian international James Horwill rumbled over from close range – Botica converted both to leave the score at 35-6.

After a period of sustained Bath pressure, home lock Sam Twomey was sin-binned just past the hour mark for pulling down a jumper in the line-out.

And Bath made their numerical advantage count just minutes later as No.8 Amanaki Mafi forced his way through a pile of bodies and scored in the corner with an outstretched arm to leave the score at 35-11.

It got even better on 70 minutes as Bath scored again – this time Jeff Williams finished off a glorious team score to dot down in the corner and Homer added the extras.

Harlequins were now rocking and the departure of Easter and Dave Ward with injuries did little to ease the home fears.

With seven minutes remaining Bath narrowed the gap further as England wing Semesa Rokoduguni ran in a third score in just a matter of minutes to bring the score back to 35-25 to set up a tense finale.

Horwill received a yellow card for Quins in the final two minutes but the home side hung on for the precious win despite Bath scoring a last-gasp penalty through Homer to earn the losing bonus point. 

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