Monday, 10th April 2017 @ 21:20
Harlequins’ final Aviva ‘A’ League match ended in a 34-7 defeat at The Rec on Monday evening, despite a spirited second half performance from the Londoners.
Two tries in each half, from Bath's Aled Brew, Kristian Phillips, Levi Douglas and Zach Mercer, were met with a perfect kicking display from Adam Hastings.
The visitors struck back late through Jonas Mikalcius and Ruaridh Jackson was able to add the extras but it was too late as Bath had a commanding lead.
In the context of the Aviva ‘A’ League season, the match had no weight to either side who were unable to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.
The fixture was however an excellent opportunity for both sides to provide valuable game time to those returning from injury, while enabling those with youthful exuberance to test themselves in the hope for some senior rugby before the season’s conclusion.
An unfamiliar centre partnership of Aaron Morris and Henry Cheeseman combined well with Dino Lamb and Dan Murphy providing an excellent work rate in the set piece and in open play.
The Rec provided the perfect setting for an evening of rugby, the conditions were perfect for a fast paced and entertaining match.
Despite a bright start from Harlequins, they were unable to take an early lead. Ruaridh Jackson’s penalty attempt from the opening scrum sailed wide before Bath’s Adam Hastings provided the hosts with a 6-0 advantage after ten minutes.
For much of the first Half, Harlequins defended inside their 22. The scrambled defence, in the early stages, held off a Bath attack which threatened on multiple occasions.
Bath’s lively scrum half Will Homer was a constant threat and after a second snipe from the base of a ruck , he was able to execute a simple two on one which allowed Aled Brew to dot down under the posts on his return from injury. With Hastings’ conversion, Bath lead 13-0 on the half hour mark.
It was this score that ignited Harlequins’ first meaningful attack. Jonas Mikalcius expertly gathered possession from an up and under and as the ball was shipped wide, Henry Cheeseman stormed forward.
Working the phases inside the 22, an adventurous grubber from Jackson went to touch and out of the reach of the chasing Cheeseman.
Bath were able to clear, but two strong runs from Ross Chisholm brought Harlequins back upfield. The winger, named vice captain for the evening, was bunded to touch inches before scoring after Mikalcius cleverly picked through the middle of a ruck on the Bath 22.
It was Bath who had the final say of the half however. When Harlequins were penalised on midfield, the resulting lineout move cut Harlequins open.
A simple loop between Homer and blindside winger Kristian Phillips allowed the Welshman to get deep into the 22. After two phases, Levi Douglas bundled over. Hastings added his second conversion giving Bath a healthy 20-0 lead at half time.
Bath were handed an advantage when Harlequins were reduced to 14 men just after the break. EPDG member John Okafor was shown yellow for a high challenge; an unfortunate mark on what had been a solid first appearance to that point.
It took Bath eight minutes to capitalise on the man advantage when centre Max Clark spotted space behind the rushing Harlequins defence. His perfectly weighted grubber kick found the hands of Phillips who scrambled to the corner, despite the defensive efforts of Mikalcius. With Hastings’ conversion Bath lead 27-0.
Karl Dickson, who made his first appearance after recovering from a broken leg, was brought on at the 60 minute mark and upped the tempo with quick tap penalties and fast recycling of possession.
Working a promising attack upfield and winning a penalty, their best effort from a rolling maul was not enough as they were held up before the line with 14 minutes remaining.
Harlequins capitalised on the hosts’ ill-discipline in the latter stages. Taking a quick tap penalty, Karl Dickson was held short of the line and after two quick phases the ball found the hands of Mikalcius who scored in the left corner. Jackson was successful with the touchline conversion reducing the deficit to 27-7.
It was a promising end to the half, with strong carries from Elia Elia and Dino Lamb, but Bath had the final say, launching a clinical counter attack as Harlequins chased a second consolation try.
Breaking away and weaving upfield, Zach Mercer scored under the posts which allowd Hastings to complete a perfect kicking display.
Final score 34-7.