Bath complete Cup double over Quins

Bath sit at the top of Pool Four of the European Challenge Cup after recording their second victory over NEC Harlequins in successive weeks, 20-14.

Determined defence was just as important as the attack, but Bath sought to play rugby and the surface of the Recreation Ground held up well after all the recent rain. A positive start was fully rewarded, for within two minutes, Nick Abendanon had made up for missing out on his hat-trick against Harlequins last weekend by scoring in front of the Hamptons Stand, after first Andy Beattie and then Nick Walshe had made telling breaks down the blindside.

But the visitors had the better of play for the succeeding minutes. First, Quins wing David Strettle asked questions of the Bath defence when he chipped the ball over their heads and only just failed to gather, with the line open ahead of him. Bath were relieved again when Mike Brown's pass to Tom Williams in space was deemed forward, and Bath were awarded a penalty as Andy Gomersall disputed the referee's decision. But eventually Quins were offered a penalty in front of the posts, which Adrian Jarvis took.

In the middle period of the half, Bath could not lay their hands on the ball for any length of time, and the sin-binning of Peter Short for use of the boot in the ruck was of no assistance. Quins threatened to breach the line again when Gomersall sold a dummy in the 22, but the ball went forward after he went to ground.

In fact, against the run of play, Barkley gave Bath the next points, with a penalty after Quins wing Williams failed to release in the tackle having fielded a box kick by Walshe.

The half ended as it began, with a try for the hosts in the left-hand side of the pitch. Patient work at close quarters had taken play into range, and when Bath won a penalty just metres out, Walshe took it quickly and passed to Shaun Berne, who dived over.

After the break, the first scoring opportunity was Barkley's again, thanks to a break down the right-hand touchline by Lee Mears, which eventually forced Quins offside, but the kick veered to the left of the posts.

The Harlequins fly-half Jarvis made no mistake with the next opportunity afforded him, two successive penalties taking him within striking range of the posts. The score proved the visitors were not out of it, and they should have scored a try, but Hal Luscombe knocked on with the line at his mercy.

The second period was at its midway point when Bath opted to kick a penalty to the touchline five metres out, but they failed to protect the ball after the initial drive and Quins cleared the danger. This heralded further dominance of position by Harlequins, but the defence held firm and when Mears broke upfield it seemed the pressure had been relieved.

The referee quickly penalised the hooker for holding on, but Jarvis's kick fell short, and Bath's adventurous running of the ball was rewarded with a penalty, which was booted into touch to take play back into the Quins half. Shortly after, a second penalty within kickable distance allowed Barkley to increase Bath's lead.

Although Bath's defence had been solid throughout the game, it gave way at last when Andrew Mehrtens, the replacement fly-half, looped round to set up Williams. Mehrtens missed the conversion, but Bath could not afford to relax, as there was still more injury time and when Quins got a penalty in front of the posts, though forty metres out, the former All Black kicked it over to gain the visitors a losing bonus point. An agonising nine minutes of added time had elapsed before the final whistle went.

Steve Meehan said afterwards: "The team performed well and I was pleased with our attack. We now have a couple of hard games in the Premiership to come, so a win will help us to go into those in a positive frame of mind."

2: Try Abendanon, Conversion Barkley, 7-0
16: Penalty Jarvis, 7-3
31: Pen Barkley, 10-3
40+1: Try Berne, Con Barkley, 17-3
49: Pen Jarvis, 17-6
76: Pen Barkley, 20-6
80+2: Try Williams, 20-11
80+6: Pen Mehrtens, 20-14

BATH: 15. N Abendanon 14. J Maddock 13. E Fuimaono-Sapolu 12. O Barkley 11. T Cheeseman (Stephenson, 79) 10. S Berne (Malone, 79) 9. N Walshe 1. D Barnes 2. L Mears 3. L Ovens (Jarvis, 50; Ward, 60) 4. P Short (sin-bin: 22-33) 5. D Grewcock (Fidler, 77) 6. A Beattie 7. J Scaysbrook (Faamatuainu, 54) 8. I Feaunati (captain)

Replacements: 16. D Ward 17. A Jarvis 18. R Fidler 19. J Faamatuianu 20. P Travagli
21. M Stephenson 22. C Malone

NEC HARLEQUINS: 15. M Brown 14. D Strettle 13. H Luscombe 12. S Abbott (Deane, 80+4) 11. T Williams 10. A Jarvis (Mehrtens, 73) 9. A Gomersall (So'oailo, 73) 1. C Jones 2. T Fuga (Richards, 80+2) 3. M Ross (Robson, 60) 4. O Kohn 5. S Miall 6. A Vos 7. P Volley (captain) 8. N Easter (Guest, 41)

Replacements: 16. J Richards 17. R Nebbett 18. G Robson 19. T Guest 20. S So'oailo 21. A Mehrtens 22. M Deane

Referee: Andrew MacPherson
Attendance: 10,600

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