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Quins quash Bath

16 Mar 2008
Quins quash Bath

Two weekends after beating GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP leaders Gloucester, Harlequins stopped Bath going top with a superb win.

The visitors needed a bonus-point victory to go above Leicester and Gloucester, but their only compensations at they left The Stoop were the losing point secured with the last move of the match and the fact they still have a game in hand on both the clubs above them.

Harlequins, meanwhile, are back up to fifth and still entertaining their own play-off hopes.

Using the wind much the better of the two teams their vital score came after 56 minutes.

Leading 12-9 right wing Simon Keogh just managed to get a kick in as he was being tackled into touch and, following up, scrum-half Danny Care – man of the match yet again – gathered and scrambled his way over the line as Bath frantically tried to pull him up short.

It was a fine reward for the 5ft 9in, 13-stone Keogh, who had the unenviable task of marking 6ft 7in, 17-stone Matt Banahan and more than held his own.

With stand-off Adrian Jarvis kicking five penalties and the conversion Quins were well worth the win against a side whose points came from three Olly Barkley penalties and then the converted injury-time try from scrum-half Michael Claassens

Harlequins, who lost centre Hal Luscombe and lock Nicolas Spanghero from their intended line-up after training knocks, showed an adventurous approach in the early stages.

Playing into the wind had a lot to do with that and, try as the home side did to force play downfield, it was Bath who did most of the pressing.

The conditions were such that after nine minutes stand-off Olly Barkley – off to Gloucester next season – opened the scoring with a penalty just inside the Quins half.

Bath were without four England players in Steve Borthwick, Lee Mears, Michael Lipman and Matt Stevens, while Harlequins also lacked number eight Nick Easter and injured wing star David Strettle.

Dean Richards’ side made their first foray into the Bath 22 after 13 minutes and when lock Danny Grewcock was penalised at a maul right in front of the posts outside-half Adrian Jarvis levelled the scores.

A break by Spanghero’s late replacement George Robson then set up another attacking platform as Quins built up a head of steam.

They lost the resultant scrum against the head on the five-metre line, but the clearing kick to touch by scrum-half Michael Claassens made little distance and Bath were relieved to clear the immediate danger after the line-out throw was knocked on.

Some desperate defence of their own was needed by Harlequins after a Barkley punt downfield stopped just short of the line. Full-back Mike Brown did wonderfully well to skip round the on-rushing tacklers and centre De Wet Barry cleared up when the kick to the corner by Alex Crockett failed to find the huge advancing figure of wing Matt Banahan.

Fights involving a whole host of players broke out just before the half-hour and the consequence of it was not only that home hooker Tani Fuga was yellow-carded, but Barkley landed his second penalty.

Harlequins came straight back, though, and Jarvis made it 6-6 when Bath infringed at a ruck yards from their line.

With Nick Abendanon’s kick then running into the dead ball area and Bath penalised at the scrum back in their own half Jarvis had a chance to make it three out of three – but from 40 metres not surprisingly came up short.

Nevertheless, it was Quins who went in for the interval probably the happier of the two teams after an intensely physical half.

Not only did they have the wind at their backs for the second period, but they had not suffered from being down to 14 men for 10 minutes.

Barkley quickly discovered how hard it was to make distance when an attempted clearance blew back into the Bath 22 and Jarvis made him pay when he made it 9-6 with another penalty after 46 minutes.

Three minutes later Barkley squared things up again before Harlequins came close to the first try following Danny Care’s grubber kick into the corner. Brown and Keogh chased it, but Abendanon just got there first.

Jarvis’ fourth penalty put Quins 12-9 up after 54 minutes when Bath were penalised for crossing and then the first try did come.

Banahan thought he had given Bath a sniff of a late chance when he burst through and touched down with four minutes left, but the Bath fans who started celebrated had not spotted that referee Dean Richards – namesake of the Harlequins head coach – had penalised them for obstruction again.

It summed up Bath’s afternoon and moments later Jarvis put over another penalty opportunity, meaning it was too little too late when Claassens went over under the posts and Barkley converted.

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