Saturday, 27th October 2018 @ 15:00
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Harlequins enjoyed a winning start to their Premiership Rugby Cup campaign at Bath with a 19-27 victory – but they were made to fight hard all the way by a spirited Bath side.
The visitors took a deserved lead 5-11 into half-time having had the majority of possession and were always looking the more threatening in attack, but they left it until the 39th minute before they scored their first try of the match through Charlie Walker.
The quick-thinking Charlie Mulchrone, captain for the day, took a tap and go penalty on the half-way line before releasing Francis Saili in the centre. He punched the initial hole in the Bath defence and when the off-load came to Aaron Morris, the Full-back launched a beautiful kick over the Bath try-line which Walker sprinted onto and made it just in time to touch down before the ball went dead.
The half belonged to Quins but they were unable to make an impression on the scoreboard and were made to pay for it after 14 minutes when Bath made the most of their prowess in the lineout from three consecutive penalties deep in the Quins’ half. The third led to a yellow card for George Merrick pulling the maul down five yards from the try line and, from the resulting scrum, hooker Jack Walker piled over for the try.
Quins were back in it three minutes later through the boot of Demetri Catrakilis, starting for Quins at Fly-half, and he added another penalty five minutes later for a high tackle to give Quins the lead at 5-6 after 23 minutes.
From there Quins dominated the remaining minutes but still they could not make their good hands and strong running count until a minute before the interval when Walker went over.
Alex Dombrandt, who was enjoying an excellent run-out in his first start in a quartered shirt, extended Harlequins’ lead soon after the break with the visitors’ second try of the match. From their own kick-off Quins enjoyed 10 phases of play, with Ross Chisholm and Dombrandt both making dangerous breaks before Mulchrone found Dombrandt again with a sumptuous miss-pass and the flanker made no mistake from five yards out.
Catrakilis converted and Quins looked like they might be about to turn the screw when Walker made an excellent break after 47 minutes. His chip and chase should have given Quins another try but his pass went astray and allowed Bath to stay in the match.
A penalty in front of the posts following a solid spell of Quins pressure saw Catrakilis extend the lead to 5-21 with a little over 20 minutes remaining but Bath were refusing to go quietly and dominated the next 15 minutes of play. Their pressure forced more penalties from Quins and another yellow card – this one for Dombrandt. Swiftly after Ross Batty piled over from a driving maul to put five more points on the board. And Alex Davies converted.
Another Catrakilis penalty after 69 minutes kept the hosts at arms length but with the score at 12-24 Bath came again and their tried and tested routine of kicking penalties to the corner, winning the line out and taking Quins on with a driving maul, bore fruit for a third time with Batty charging over for another score which Davies converted.
A tense finish ensued but another penalty from James Lang, on for Catrakilis, edged Quins ahead by eight points with five minutes remaining. This time the visitors were able to close out the game and leave The Rec with a win.
Mark Mapletoft, acting Head Coach, said afterwards he was delighted with the winning start and praised Harlequins’ accuracy in attack at key moments. “It was obviously frustrating to concede three tries and there is plenty to work on before Newcastle at home next week, but we were pleased with our performance today and with the way we took our chances,” he said.
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