Another rainy day, but in a low-scoring contest at the Twickenham Stoop, Bath Rugby could not repeat their win in the wet of New Year's Day, nor their previous two victories over NEC Harlequins this season, as the match finished 9-3 to the hosts.
The rain had been falling for much of the morning, and just as the match kicked off, it began to do so even more heavily, making conditions awkward for both sides, who had to contend with the slippery ball, soggy turf and bright floodlights. But Harlequins drew first blood when Bath were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle, and Adrian Jarvis slotted a fairly straightforward penalty from in front of the posts.
The combination of a heavy ball and an adverse penalty count meant Bath played little of the first forty minutes in the Quins half. It was not a day conducive to attractive rugby, but about midway through the half, a sweetly timed pass to Jordan Turner-Hall put the centre over the gain-line, and when David Strettle took the ball further, Bath's defence had to be on its guard. But James Scaysbrook pounced when the ball came out of the ruck, to avert the immediate danger.
And as both sides struggled to control the ball, a chip towards Bath's line, with Jordan-Hall and Danny Care in pursuit, nearly led to a try, but the ball went forward as it was touched down, and play taken back for a Harlequins scrum for an earlier knock-on.
Still the home side dominated possession and territory, but it was half an hour after the first score before they won another kickable penalty. Jarvis's attempt fell below the crossbar, but the fly-half made up for it a few minutes later with another shot after Bath were penalised at the scrum for breaking their binding.
The half closed with Bath defending their line again in the face of pick-and-drive tactics, but the move eventually fell down without yielding anything. In the circumstances, six points could be considered a reasonable lead.
Two minutes after the resumption, Olly Barkley had his first attempt at goal, a penalty for an infringement at the ruck, but the ball fell left of the uprights. After Jarvis too had missed another kick at goal, Barkley got his second opportunity when Gareth Delve, who had just replaced Scaysbrook, was impeded in the lineout, and this time he made no mistake.
The home side continued with the territorial advantage, and having missed another attempt at goal, Jarvis booted the next penalty to touch. When the maul collapsed after the resulting lineout, David Barnes was shown a yellow card. With the next two penalties, Quins opted for the scrum, but to Bath's credit, the second was won against the head. Play remained in the Bath half, and eventually Jarvis went for goal again, this time successfully.
Now Bath's forwards strung together a number of phases that took them within range of the tryline, but though Nick Walshe crossed it, he was denied the try for accidental offside. Apart from this, Harlequins retained the lion's share of possession until, with three minutes left on the countdown clock, Joe Maddock took play into their half after a scrum. Bath forced a penalty and the ball was kicked to touch but Quins stole the lineout ball and cleared the danger.
Bath were in possession when the final whistle went, but were left on the wrong end of the score, and Steve Meehan, the Head Coach, said the whole team was disappointed: "We had some opportunities in the second half and should have nailed the game," he said. "We got away with a competition point but we have lost three and the guys are aware of that."
He was, though, pleased with the return of captain Steve Borthwick: "He said afterwards that he feels physically quite good and I thought he had a pretty good performance first time out in four months. He will only get better."
4: Penalty Jarvis, 3-0
37: Pen Jarvis, 6-0
56: Pen Barkley, 6-3
68: Pen Jarvis, 9-3
BATH: 15. O Barkley 14. J Maddock 13. C Walker 12. E Fuimaono-Sapolu 11. M Stephenson 10. S Berne (Malone, 68) 9. A Williams (Walshe, 52) 1. D Barnes (sin-bin: 63-77) 2. P Dixon (Hawkins, 59) 3. T Sigley (Feaunati, 77) 4. S Borthwick (captain) 5. H Louw (Short, 50) 6. A Beattie (Fidler, 77) 7. J Scaysbrook (Delve, 52) 8. I Feaunati (Jarvis, 64)
Replacements: 16. R Hawkins 17. A Jarvis 18. R Fidler 19. P Short 20. G Delve 21. N Walshe 22. C Malone
NEC HARLEQUINS: 15. M Brown 14. D Strettle (Monye, 41) 13. S Abbott 12. J Turner-Hall 11. S Keogh 10. A Jarvis 9. D Care 1. A Croall 2. T Fuga 3. M Ross 4. O Kohn 5. N Spanghero 6. A Vos 7. P Volley (captain) 8. N Easter
Replacements: 16. J Richards 17. R Nebbett 18. S Miall 19. C Hala'Ufia 20. W Skinner 21. H Luscombe 22. U Monye
Referee: D Pearson
Attendance: 10, 920