Guinness Premiership - Game of the Week
Quins snatch dramatic victory over Bath
October 3, 2009
Quins Gonzalo Tiesi is tackled by Bath's Michael Claassens at The Stoop
© Getty Images
Harlequins notched their first Guinness Premiership win of the season with a narrow 13-11 victory over Bath at The Stoop.
No.8 Nick Easter crashed over in stoppage time to level the match before fly-half Nick Evans sealed the win by converting the score with the last kick of the game. A second half try from Shontayne Hape looked to have put Bath on course for only their second win of the season but Quins rallied to break their duck and lift the gloom surrounding the under-fire club.
Both teams had hit the headlines for the wrong reasons during English rugby's so-called 'summer of shame' with the infamous fake injury scandal ending in bans for former Quins rugby director Dean Richards, club physiotherapist Steph Brennan and wing Tom Williams while Bath trio Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins were handed nine month bans for missing drug tests.
Subsequently the two sides entered this clash on the back of some indifferent form with Quins, who claimed second spot last season, under increasing pressure from their faithful supporters to stop the rot.
Bath controlled much of the first half thanks to a superior set-piece game and although both sides showed a willingness to throw the ball there was a lack of precision at crucial times.
Quins' Ugo Monye and Bath's Matt Banahan shrugged off injury scares in a frenetic opening played out in front of England boss Martin Johnson before some lazy running from the home side offered Little the chance to open the scores. His kick was on target and he doubled his side's lead soon after when Quins flanker Will Skinner was penalised for hands in the ruck.
Bath were not short of ambition and fullback Nick Abendanon conjured an eye-catching run that took him deep into Quins territory but he was unable to find any support. Quins rallied and a strong run from No.8 Nick Easter forced Bath into a penalty on the quarter hour that allowed Evans to reduce the arrears. But he was off-target later when Bath were caught off-side.
Bath finished the half on the front foot and an incisive break from Little took him into the Quins 22 where he found centre Matt Carraro but the Australian was denied by a last-gasp tackle from winger Ugo Monye.
Quins raised their game after the break and looked to have notched the first try of the game just short of the hour mark when Monye pounced on a loose ball to dot down in the corner only for it to be ruled out for a knock on by centre Gonzalo Tiesi. And Quins looked to be running out of chances when Evans pulled a relatively easy penalty chance well wide soon after.
The crowd noise lifted when hooker Gary Botha bowed out of his last appearance for Quins before returning home to South Africa and they were given more reason to cheer when a slick passing move found Gonzalo Camacho out wide only for the Argentinean to be bundled into touch by a crunching tackle from Abendanon.
Back came the home side and Evans brought his side level as the game entered the last ten minutes with his second penalty. But a defensive relapse almost immediately gifted Hape an easy score but Little pulled the conversion wide of the mark.
Replacement Tom Guest then forced an opening in an otherwise resolute Bath defence but Rory Clegg was unable to take a simple pass that would have led to an easy score. Quins continued to turn the screw and a sustained spell of pressure saw Clegg guilty of another error but Bath's desperate defence saved him any further embarrassment and led to a yellow card for No.8 Ben Skirving.
With time elapsed, Easter conjured one final drive and showed great strength to force his way over although referee Wayne Barnes called on the Television Match Official to confirm the score. While Quins celebrated a hard-fought escape, Evans composed himself to slot the all-important match-winning kick.
Harlequins head coach John Kingston hailed his players' never-say-die spirit, "I was obviously worried. The biggest emotion however is admiration for the great fighting spirit this group has. I wonder what their emotions were seeing the number of chances we created but failed to take, then we allowed them a soft try.
"Yet the players were far calmer than we were on the line and they displayed a wonderful never-say-die spirit. I'm very proud of them. I dashed down to see a screen, but I could not actually see if it had been touched down. But Nick confirmed he had scored it and it was a great feeling.
"Above all, we've put a line under the first five games because we've got ourselves a win. I'd give us three or four out of 10 for what we've achieved so far, but this sends us into the Heineken Cup next week with a terrific lift."
Bath boss Steve Meehan admitted, "I feel a big sense of frustration after another game coming down to the wire without us finishing it off. We've got to make better decisions. There were moments in the game where our accuracy and execution were not good enough in the heat of the moment.
"I admit they could have scored more tries towards the end, but then we also had chances we didn't take. It was so close to a hard-earned win, but once again we just didn't see it out."