Bath Rugby fall at semi-final hurdle

Bath Rugby fell to a fluid Harlequins side this afternoon at the Twickenham Stoop in the LV= Cup semi-final, despite a valiant fight back. Final Score – Harlequins 31 Bath Rugby 23.

Bath started brightly with Matt Banahan bursting through the Quins line from the off. However, it was the home side who struck first with a move straight off the training field.

Quick lineout ball was spread flat through the hands, eventually finding wing Tom Williams. He fed the ball to Maurie Fa'asavalu who found back-row partner Tom Guest and the number eight sprinted towards the line. Ben Botica added the extras, giving the 7-0 lead with eight minutes played.

As Quins looked to run any ball they had, Bath were looking to respond quickly to the try. The forwards rumbled up the field, and with the ball being quickly passed through the hands of the backs, it looked as if a score was on. However, Williams read Kyle Eastmond's long pass, intercepted and sprinted the length of the field to cross between the posts. Botica scored the easy conversion, and the hosts had doubled their lead.

Bath were fighting their way back into the game though, and the forwards started to show their dominance at the set-piece. Two lineouts led to two penalties, both of which were dispatched back into the corner by Tom Heathcote, and on the third, taken securely by Dominic Day, the forwards drove hard and over the line, with Francois Louw touching down for the score. Heathcote added the conversion. 14-7.

Quins once more proved their ability to put speed into any possession they had four minutes before half-time, with Karl Dickson breaking from his own half to inside the Bath 22 to set up the next score for the London side. Opting to kick to corner rather than goal, the ball was passed through the hands from the lineout and Dickson eventually burrowed his way over from short range. Botica was again on target with the conversion, extending the difference to 14 once more.

Heathcote clawed three points back two minutes later after an enterprising break from Horacio Agulla was stopped illegally, and as the two sides went in at half-time Quins had an 11 point lead.

Heathcote picked up where he left off once play had resumed, edging Bath closer on the scoreboard with another three points. However, Quins pulled ahead again after some patient build-up through the phases lead to a break from Luke Wallace and second try from Williams. Botica converted. 28-13.

With the hour mark approaching, Bath knew they had to get back into the game, and were putting their all in to make it happen. When Sam Smith was yellow carded, the visitors were quick to take advantage of the extra man. The ball was passed first left then right across the field, with Michael Claassens eventually spinning it to Nick Abendanon who picked his line and crashed over despite the on-coming Quins defence. Heathcote nailed the conversion, taking Bath within eight points.

The fight back from Bath continued as the young fly-half added a penalty soon after to bring Bath even closer, but the game soon swung back in Quins's favour as Nathan Catt followed Smith into the sin-bin for trying to prevent Dickson taking a quick tap penalty. Botica sent the resulting penalty cleanly through the posts and edged Quins further into the lead.

The 14-man Bath side battled hard as the last ten minutes ticked by, but with the home side in oppressive form they just couldn't find a way through to get the scores needed and so the game ended in disappointment for the visitors.

Final score – Harlequins 31 – Bath Rugby 23.

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