Bath Rugby narrowly missed out on a place in the Aviva Premiership play-offs this afternoon, losing out 19-16 to Harlequins in a hard-hitting, full-blooded game.
Both sides finished with 67 points in total, but Quins secured the all-important fourth place by virtue of having won one more game.
The game was billed as the quarter-final of this season's Premiership, and both teams treated it as such from the get-go, standing firm in defence and looking for any holes to burst through in attack.
It took 16 minutes for the first points to be scored, and they went the way of the home side. Quins applied the pressure from the lineout, with Care marshalling the ball wide across the pitch. The scrum-half sent a final, looping pass out wide to Brown, who powered over from short range. Nick Evans added the conversion. 7-0.
The frenetic, see-sawing nature of the game continued, with both sides looking for the gap in defence to take advantage of, and on 24 minutes Bath found it, and exploited it ruthlessly.
A strong scrum saw Leroy Houston burst free with the ball. He offloaded to his back row colleague Carl Fearns, who bulldozed his way forward before finding George Ford outside him. The fly-half collected the ball outside the 22, pinned his ears back and sprinted away from the covering defence, including last-man Ugo Monye. Ford flew over the try-line between the posts, and converted his own score to draw level. 7-7.
Straight from the re-start Quins attacked, and looked as if they'd scored through Nick Easter. Referee Wayne Barnes wasn't so sure, consulted his TMO and ruled that the final pass from Care was forward. Evans missed a penalty shortly after, but just before half-time the All Black had a more straightforward effort and duly extended the lead. 10-7.
Half-time score: Harlequins 10 – Bath Rugby 7
The game had seen very few shots on goal from the tee in the first-half, but the second forty became a battle of the fly-halves, as Evans and Ford kept trying to ensure victory for their side come the final whistle.
A searing break from Nick Abendanon kick-started the half, as the fullback darted and weaved through the Quins line. He was caught agonisingly close to the try-line, but earned the penalty which allowed Ford to draw Bath level.
A yellow card shown to Matt Banahan with just over half an hour left to play gave Quins the advantage, but some heroic defence from Bath kept the home side from crossing the white-wash, although Evans took the lead again with two further penalties .
Ford and his Kiwi counterpart then exchanged a penalty apiece when both sides were judged guilty of obstruction from the kick-off, but Quins enjoyed the lion's share of possession as the game drew to a close.
Bath battled hard as the clock ticked away, but as Ford's final drop goal attempt dropped short, Barnes blew his whistle for the last time, and so ended the West Country side's hopes of a play-off place.
Final score: Harlequins 19 – Bath Rugby 16.