Harlequins edge to a 35-28 victory against Bath on Friday evening at the Stoop
Quins led 21-6 at the break thanks to tries from Harry Sloan and Charlie Walker combined with 11 points from the boot of Ben Botica
The visitors ended the half with 14 men after Chris Cook was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on
Two quickfire tries from Quins after the restart gave the hosts a 35-6 lead after 43 minutes and secured the bonus-point
Amanaki Mafi, Jeff Williams and Semesa Rokoduguni scored consolation tries for the visitors in the closing stages
Tom Homer rescues losing bonus-point for Mike Ford’s men late on
Harlequins survived a remarkable late fightback from Bath to hang on for a bonus-point victory in an exhilarating encounter at a sold-out Stoop on Friday evening.
Both teams were looking to put disappointing recent form behind them as they thundered out of the blocks in a frenetic opening half.
The visitors conceded 24 points either side of half-time while they were down to 14 men after scrum-half Chris Cook was sin-binned. Winger Charlie Walker crossed twice and James Horwill also went over for the hosts, adding to Harry Sloan’s early score to secure the bonus-point.
But Bath scored three tries and 22 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to earn an unlikely bonus point of their own. Amanaki Mafi, Jeff Williams and Semesa Rokoduguni all touched down after Harlequins replacement Sam Twomey was sin-binned, and Tom Homer kicked a penalty in the closing seconds to ensure Mike Ford’s side would not leave empty-handed.
Last season’s Aviva Premiership finalists remain ninth in the table after this latest loss, having won only two of their eight league games in 2016 and five of 15 Premiership outings in all this season. Meanwhile, Quins strengthened their bid to finish in the top four by moving up to fifth in the standings.
Quins, who had won just one of their last six Aviva Premiership matches before today, started fabulously with Ben Botica kicking a penalty to open the scoring after just three minutes before Sloan’s unconverted try a minute later gave the hosts an early eight-point lead. The centre was played in by veteran Nick Easter, who intercepted Ollie Devoto’s wayward pass on the halfway line to start the breakaway, 8-0.
The visitors had won on their last two trips to the stoop and finally got a foothold in the game after fullback Homer knocked over a three-pointer after 10 minutes, but the hosts replied almost instantly off the restart as Botica slotted a penalty of his own to re-establish Quins’ eight-point advantage.
Soon after though Homer clawed Bath back into the game yet again with another penalty, which despite some delightful free-flowing rugby is how things remained until four minutes before half-time when Botica knocked over his third three-pointer of the clash, 14-6.
The same incident saw the visitors reduced to 14 men after scrum-half Cook was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on.
Then, on the brink of half-time, Quins made their numerical advantage count with Mark Lambert’s barnstorming disturbing the visitors defence before the ball was worked out wide to winger Walker, who weaved between the Bath defence to dot down between the posts. Botica then converted to give the home side a 21-6 lead at the break.
The hosts started the second half still a man up and within a minute made Bath pay once again after they gave the ball away just outside their own 22 with Walker turning on his jet boots to dive over for his brace and eighth try of the season. Boitica then added the extras, 28-6.
Three minutes later Bath again failed to deal with Quins attack. This time, a 40m rolling maul from the hosts set the foundations before Australia international James Horwill went over from close range to secure the bonus point. Botica, reliable as normal, again added the conversion to extend the hosts advantage to 29-points.
Bath was then back up to their full compliment but had conceded a crippling 21-points in the ten minute time period they were without their number nine.
Quins were then reduced to 14 with replacement Sam Twomey sent to the bin for 10 minutes after bringing down a Bath player in the air from a lineout. The visitors then struck immediately with Japanese international Amanaki Mafi forcing the ball down after Bath drove to the left corner from the lineout. Homer though could not add the extra two, 35-11.
With Dave Ward and Easter both needing treatment, Quins were effectively down to 12 men and Bath took advantage to score their second try after 69 minutes. Matt Banahan powerfully ran down the left wing before passing to Williams, who coasted over to give Bath some hope. Homer then added the extras to further reduce the deficit.
Rokoduguni then got Harlequins supporters sitting uncomfortably in their seats after a Banahan offload slipped him through for Baths third try of the evening. HomerÂ’s conversion left the visitors with a sniff at a comeback at 35-25 with seven minutes left to play.
Quins Horwill then received a yellow card and an early bath for a high tackle before against all odds, Bath were able to finish the match with a losing bonus point as Homer kicked a last-minute penalty to end the match.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Harlequins: Nick Easter
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 George Lowe, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Henry Cheeseman, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Mat Luamanu, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 George Merrick, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Will Collier, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Joe Marchant, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Matt Banahan, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Horacio Agulla, 10 Ollie Devoto, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Francois Louw (c), 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Dominic Day, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Max Lahiff
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 David Wilson, 19 Leroy Houston, 20 Guy Mercer, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Max Clark, 23 Jeff Williams
Date: Friday, March 11
Venue: The Stoop
Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Dean Richards
Assistant Referees: Andy Watson, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Sean Davey