Bath see off Quins in fifth straight win on home soil
Bath continued their rich vein of form with a 24-13 victory over struggling Harlequins, a result which sees them rise from second bottom to play-off contenders.
Harlequins visited the west country looking to pull away from the relegation battle that is consuming ever more teams at the foot of the table.
Olly Barkley, Joe Maddock and Duncan Bell all touched down to record Bath’s fifth consecutive league win at the Rec and continue the chase for Heineken Cup qualification. Bath have not lost since their away defeat at the hands of Northampton on December 5.
Barkley kicked his side’s first points on four minutes from fifty metres out in his first appearance since breaking his leg last summer. He produced a blistering display, playing alongside Butch James in the centres for the first time this season.
He was rewarded for his efforts by scoring under the posts and converting Bath’s first try on 24 minutes.
Bath could have been 13-0 up with four minutes left of the first half but Barkley made a hash of a much easier kick right in front of the posts.
Bath captain Michael Claassens was sent to the bin for a high and early tackle on David Strettle denying the visitors a potential try scoring opportunity.
Quins fly half Nick Evans made no mistakes with the boot and gave his side a fighting chance by converting two penalties before the break, 10-6 the score.
The New Zealander did make a mistake early in the second half though, missing the opportunity to capitalise on the one-man advantage. Once Classens returned Bath took the game by the scruff of the neck.
Tight head prop Bell ran in Bath’s second try linking up with his fellow front-row forward Lee Mears. The stadium tannoy announcing the try held a whiff of sarcasm, “another 25-metre run from Bell”.
Barkley and Nick Abendanon opened up the Quins defence before winger Maddock stepped, soon to be Sarries payer, Strettle to score the third try in the 52nd minute. Barkley converted both tries and effectively sealed the game. Bath were cruising with their 24-6 lead until four minutes from time.
Only then did Quins begin to play with the fluidity and flare that comes to them when the pressure is off, and substitute Tom Williams finished off a good counter-attacking move which Evans converted. But it was all too little too late and it finished 24-13.
Bath will rue the fact that they couldn’t score a fourth try and get that precious bonus point but Bath head coach Steve Meehan has certainly conducted his team’s emphatic second half of the season revival, which could save their blushes.
Harlequins will face fellow strugglers Newcastle Falcons at the Stoop on April 3 while Bath will have to play exceptionally well if they want to take anything away from their fixture against League leaders Leicester Tigers.
Elsewhere in the Premiership Toby Flood led the line for the Tigers as they swept Worcester aside, 39-18 at Sixways and the England fly half was responsible for 24 points.
Worcester remain bottom, two points behind Leeds Carnegie and Sale, with five games of the season to go. Leeds failed to get any points on the board as they lost 19-0, Gloucester’s Nicky Robinson kicking all the points for the cherry and whites.
Northampton, still able to win the treble, are now unbeaten in 21 games after they narrowly beat Wasps 14-9. The LV= winners are second in the Premiership two points behind Leicester and still in the Heineken Cup.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Shontayne Hape, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens (c), 8 Luke Watson, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Peter Short, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 David Barnes, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Danny Grewcock, 20 Jonny Faamatuainu, 21 Scott Bemand, 22 Nicky Little, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 David Strettle, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Will Skinner (c), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Robson, 4 James Percival, 3 John Andress, 2 Tani Fuga, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Aston Croall, 18 James Johnston, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Chris York, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Williams.