Harlequins 23-9 Bath, Aviva Premiership
Quins snap losing streak
April 13, 2013
Quins snap league losing streak%]
Harlequins stayed on course for the Aviva Premiership play-offs with a 23-9 victory over Bath at The Stoop on Saturday.
A trademark opportunist try from England scrum-half Danny Care and a 30th-birthday touchdown by winger Ugo Monye enabled defending champions to end their three-match losing run and keep the pressure on Saracens and Leicester at the top of the table.
Care struck six minutes after half-time to rescue a season which was spiralling into decline and Monye followed up as he capitalised on a defensive mix-up in the 64th minute. Ben Botica, a first-half replacement for injured centre Matt Hopper, kicked 13 valuable points for Harlequins, who had also lost to Munster in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup last Sunday.
Japan-bound former All Blacks fly-half Stephen Donald, who is joining Mitsubishi Dynaboars at the end of the season, had earlier kicked Bath into a 9-6 half-time lead with three penalties.
Bath, aiming to capitalise on Harlequins' recent poor run, made a confident start and Donald kicked them into a fifth-minute lead with his opening penalty. Quins had a let-off when Tom Williams' pass was intercepted by opposing wing Horacio Agulla, who had a clear run to the line, but he was brought back for a previous knock-on by a team-mate.
An excellent break through the middle by Care put the home side on the offensive and after centre George Lowe kicked ahead, Donald conceded a lineout five metres from his own line as he put a foot in touch while cleaning up and kicking clear. But Quins failed to push home their advantage when they were penalised at a scrum.
The ESPN panel analyse Quins' return to winning ways%]
When their scrum fell foul of referee Wayne Barnes again, just inside their own half, Donald punished them by landing the long-range penalty in the 22nd minute. Quins, who had already lost lock George Robson to a nose injury after only 17 minutes, suffered another blow when Hopper followed him to the dressing room with a hand injury three minutes later.
His replacement Botica, who took over the goalkicking duties from regular marksman Nick Evans, had only been on the pitch five minutes when he opened Harlequins' account with a penalty from wide out on the left after Bath were caught offside. Three minutes later the left-footed Botica levelled the scores with his second penalty.
Donald kicked Bath back into the lead on the stroke of half-time after Harlequins flanker Tom Guest was penalised for a high tackle on Kyle Eastmond. Harlequins went ahead for the first time in the 46th minute. Bath winger Horacio Agulla was dragged into touch five metres from his own line after fumbling a high kick from Evans, Quins' lock Ollie Khon took the lineout cleanly and found Care who squirmed his way over from close range.
The home side introduced Monye for Sam Smith and the former England winger, 30 today, ran on to a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' from the home fans. Botica extended the Harlequins lead to 16-9 in the 58th minute with his third penalty.
Monye grabbed their second try after Bath winger Olly Woodburn and replacement full-back Jack Cuthbert got into a terrible mess as the both went for a probing high kick from Evans. The ball ran free and Monye was the first to react, kicking ahead and dropping on the loose ball over the Bath line, with Botica again converting.
Bath's Ollie Devoto clears before Harlequins' Joe Marler can tackle him © Getty Images
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea commented: "That was a big mental test for us today," said O'Shea. "We've done so much right this season and met so many challenges and this was another challenge for us. We are looking forward to the run-in. We know we have one more game to win to be top four.
"But somebody is going to have to take this title off us because we ain't giving it up. We've already won a trophy (the LV= Cup) and been in a Heineken Cup quarter-final. Emotionally, we were pretty shattered to lose that but all 23, including the young lads, came on in difficult conditions and played their part. We can play a lot better, but days like today are tough days and I thought we saw a bit of energy and confidence go back into the side."
Defeat was a blow to Bath's bid for Heineken Cup rugby next season, but head coach Gary Gold said: "I thought the guys showed a huge amount of character throughout the whole game. Unfortunately we made a couple of crucial errors. That's how good Quins are. You make those errors and they are going to make you pay."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.