MATCH SUMMARY - HARLEQUINS 35-45 BATH RUGBY
"I predict a riot!" yelled the Kaiser Chiefs pre-match and a riot it was as Bath Rugby came out on top in an 11-try thriller against Harlequins at Twickenham to keep their Heineken Champions Cup hopes alive.
Tom Dunn burrowed over to open the scoring before Cadan Murley and Luke Wallace turned the fixture on its head.
Such was the topsy turvy nature of the contest, GJ van Velze crossed to put Bath back in front but Marcus Smith dived over for Quins to regain the lead.
Ollie Lawrence raced under the sticks to sway the scoreline in Bath's favour ahead Lewis Gjaltema doing similar for the hosts.
Then Niall Annett came on for Bath's bonus score with Joe Cokanasiga putting some breathing space between the two sides.
Alex Dombrandt made the closing stages nervy, however it was the visitors through Max Ojomoh who sealed victory in an incredible contest.
Bath made only one change to the starting XV that defeated Gloucester last time out with Ruaridh McConnochie coming in on the wing.
Quins were forced into a change in the warm as Danny Care was deemed unfit to play meaning a start for Gjaltema at scrum-half.
Harlequins: 15 Josh Bassett, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Lewis Gjaltema; 1 Joe Marler, 2 Jack Walker, 3 Will Collier, 4 Dino Lamb, 5 Irne Herbst, 6 Luke Wallace, 7 Will Evans, 8 Alex Dombrandt ©
Replacements: 16 Sam Riley, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 George Hammond, 20 Jack Kenningham, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Luke Northmore, 23 Nick David
Bath Rugby: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Ollie Lawrence, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Ruaridh McConnochie, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer ©; 1 Beno Obano, 2 Tom Dunn, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Josh McNally, 5 GJ van Velze, 6 Ted Hill, 7 Chris Cloete, 8 Miles Reid
Impact players: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 D’Arcy Rae, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Richard de Carpentier, 21 Max Green, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Josh Bayliss
In what looked set to be a definite rugby riot at Twickenham in front of 45,000 fans, Bath showed they meant business in the opening five minutes after Quins gave away two early penalties.
Opting for the corner on both occasions, Johann van Graan’s side turned their pressure into points, driving hooker Dunn over from the back of the maul and Ben Spencer added the extras.
Within a matter of minutes, Harlequins stamped their own seven points on the board, with wing Murley bolting for the try line down his wing. Converted by Marcus Smith, the game drew level.
Going off their feet at the ruck, Quins gave Bath the opportunity to take the lead once again, which Spencer slotted nicely to take Bath three points clear.
Taking a liking to the far corner, Quins showed their speed and released flanker Wallace over the line for their second score, with Smith converting once more to give the hosts a 14-10 lead.
Andre Esterhuizen was shown a yellow for delivering a high shot to Lawrence. In quick succession, Murley also found himself in the bin for a deliberate knock-on, giving Bath the opportunity to see out the half with a two-man advantage.
In a busy final 10 minutes of the half, van Velze made a nuisance of himself with ball carries, breaking the line and eventually giving Bath the lead for the second time by crashing over the line after repeated threats to the Quins defence.
Proving himself to be the hosts’ man of the half, Smith became relentless with the dummy throw and delayed passes. Showing his pace, the fly-half put his foot on the gas to slide over the try line. Converting his own score, the hosts put themselves in front once more.
Determined not to end the half in a deficit, Cokanasiga became a man possessed, launching himself to gather a superb crosskick from Orlando Bailey. He bounced to his feet unscathed and found support in Lawrence who slipped through the Quins defence and gave Bath their third try, and the lead as the teams headed into the changing rooms.
After Spencer kicked a huge 50:22 to open the half, the tempo of the game was frantic as both teams had a period of back and forth.
With Quins back up to 15 men, the hosts found themselves getting their fourth and bonus-point try through scrum-half Gjaltema who skipped under the sticks, giving them a four-point lead over Bath.
With replacements being made to the pack, Annett didn’t hang around – a mere 30 seconds! - before making a swift move from the back of the maul to put Bath back in front. Spencer’s boot was yet to go awry and added the extra two, taking Bath three points ahead.
Give it three minutes and Cokanasiga ran a beautiful line after Spencer’s delivery from the base of the ruck. The wing was unstoppable as he bouldered over the line to extend Bath’s lead to 10 points.
In an intense and fast-moving half, Harlequins fought back and their captain, Dombrandt, went over the line after an initial break by Smith.
Determined to not give the game away in front of 45,000 fans, Ojomoh was delivered a stunning pass out wide on the wing to give Bath the 10-point lead once again.
With two minutes in the game, and with what was predicted to be a riot from the get-go, the battle was brought to a close with Bath firmly securing a bonus-point win.
One to go. Saracens at home.
THREE IN A ROW... ONE TO GO!
Bath Rugby has one more game of the Gallagher Premiership season and it's a big one!
Join us to cheer on the Blue, Black and White against league leaders Saracens on Saturday 6 May (kick-off 16:00) as we aim to secure Heineken Champions Cup rugby!