Friday, 11th March 2016 @ 23:00
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In a game which saw everything bar the kitchen sink, Harlequins secured a bonus point win against Bath Rugby in front of a full house under Friday night lights at The Stoop.
The Stoop faithful witnessed a fantastic spectacle of running rugby, hard hits, clean breaks and their fair share of tries as Harry Sloan, James Horwill and Charlie Walker twice crossed for the home side.
With a deficit of 35-6 after 65 minutes, it looked like it would be a long night for the travelling Bath supporters. However, the men in blue, white and black clawed their way back into the match with three unanswered tries in the final 15 minutes to secure a losing bonus point with the last kick of the game.
With two away losses on the trot, the Club needed a win and they started well against the West Country men. Bath were penalised for infringements at the break down and Ben Botica stepped up to knock over the first points of the match. It was then to get better for Quins as Nick Easter intercepted a pass and made a break, passing to Harry Sloan who went over for his first try of the season. This made the score 8-0 with four minutes played.
If it was electric attack which got the scoreboard going at one end for Quins, it was impeccable defence from Ross Chisholm which kept it the same down the other.
Matt Banahan broke through the Quins line and offloaded to Horacio Agulla deep in Quins’ 22. The winger looked certain to score had it not been for the full back’s covering tackle. Chisholm took down Agulla with two metres to go to the try line and with an outstretched arm the ball was grounded short.
On 11 minutes, after soaking up pressure from Bath in their 22, Quins gave away a penalty with Tom Homer kicking over three points for the visitors.
Straight from the restart Quins launched another attack resulting in a penalty to the home side which Botica kicked over making the score 11-3. However, Bath replied with a penalty of their own after George Merrick was caught at the bottom of a ruck and was penalised. With the score at 11-6, Quins showed sturdy defence to keep Bath out after conceding a series of penalties.
With Bath’s rolling maul set up, man of the match Nick Easter, ripped the ball out of Bath hands, forcing a turnover. This lead to Kyle Sinckler making a fantastic break and offloading to Luke Wallace but unfortunately the flanker knocked on.
At this point the game took a short breather but not for long.
Charlie Walker who had been threatening all game made a lightening break inside the Bath half. The winger raced down the right wing, racking up the mis-tackles but Homer performed a fantastic cover tackle to cause the ball to be slowed and recycled.
The match then took a turn for the worst for Bath after Chris Cook was sinbinned for deliberately knocking the ball on. Botica kicked the resulting penalty increasing the deficit to 14-6.
With pressure mounting on Bath as the half came to a close, Quins finally made it count on the scoreboard. Mark Lambert made a superb break and the ball was recycled, finding Walker who showed some skilful finishing to dart over to the delight of the crowd as the clock hit 40. Botica added the extras and Quins went into the break with a healthy 21-6 lead.
If the Club started the first half well, they started the second even better. Walker’s quick reactions allowed the winger to pick up a loose ball just inside Bath’s half and outpace two Bath backs to scorch over the try line in between the posts. At this point The Stoop was well and truly rocking as Botica kicked over another conversion bringing the score to 28-6 with 44 minutes played.
The backs had their names on the score sheet up to this point until the forwards made their presence felt with a rolling maul in Bath’s 22. This saw the ball passed around the pack until James Horwill powered over from close range. Botica added the extras and the score board looked very daunting for Bath at 35-6 down with 46 minutes on the clock.
The next 15 minutes saw both teams swap possession and soak up pressure, racking up a high tackle count. Quins rang the changes and Sam Twomey came on making his first appearance in a Quins shirt since December.
However, within four minutes the lock was sent to the bin for pulling down a maul and at this point the game shifted momentum in Bath’s favour.
Three unanswered tries came in quick succession from a Bath outfit who were in pursuit of a losing bonus point at the very least.
A try from a rolling maul started the scoring for Bath with Leroy Houston dotting down in the corner after the referee went to the TMO.
Quins were then on the attack once again but were caught off guard after Harry Sloan knocked on and the resultant attack ended with replacement Jeff Williams running over and Homer adding the conversion, making the score 35-18.
With ten minutes to play, Semesa Rokoduguni showed his pace and power going over after phase play on 73 minutes. Homer again added the extras and the match faced a frenetic final seven minutes with the score at 35-25.
Quins kept the possession with the forwards and when James Chisholm was stripped of the ball and James Horwill sinbinned for illegally killing the resultant Bath attack, the visitors set up camp in Quins’ half. With no time left on the clock, Bath were awarded a penalty and Homer kicked the ball through the posts to secure an impressive comeback and the losing bonus point with the score finishing 35-28.
Harlequins will look to keep momentum on their side when they return to The Stoop next Saturday against Worcester Warriors for the second of their back to back home matches.
Tickets are still available for the Worcester match by clicking here.