Bath Rugby qualified for the finals of the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series after an evening of fast and frantic rugby that kept a lively crowd entertained throughout.
The Recreation Ground was host to the first round of this year's tournament, as Bath welcomed London Irish, Exeter Chiefs and eventual winners of the round and fellow finalists Harlequins.Match One: Bath Rugby vs Harlequins
Hosts Bath opened up proceedings, taking on Harlequins first up. Both sides traded exchanges of attack early on but it was Quins who opened up the scoring after England Sevens star Ollie Lindsay-Hague drew his opposing defenders, releasing Miles Mantella down the wing to score. Bath responded well with an aggressive phase of attack leading to Tom Heathcote receiving the ball out of the tackle to crash over for the try. Half-time, and the scores were five a piece.
Harlequins were again first on the score sheet in the second half, with a quick penalty providing a three-on-two, which allowed Lindsay-Hague to glide in. Shortly after Quins added another try with some individual speed from Ross Chisholm enabling him to beat the defender on the outside and score in the corner. A successful conversion followed. Quins rounded off the game with a final flourish and a try from Sam Smith, with the conversion adding the extras.
Final Score- Bath Rugby 5 Harlequins 24.
Match Two: Exeter Chiefs vs London Irish
The second game of the evening placed Exeter Chiefs against London Irish. With a host of speedsters in their line-up, Irish started strongly with England U18 Fullback Anthony Watson carving up the field in style to score under the posts, with the conversion following. Irish were once more on the score board with the youngest of the Armitage brothers, Guy, showing why he is England U20's centre with a deserved supporting try. Armitage quickly added his second try of the evening after receiving the ball out of contact to run in unopposed. An impressive conversion from the touchline made the half-time score 19-0.
With the rumble of the Chiefs supporters chanting away in the stands, Exeter hit back with Jack Arnott showing some fancy footwork to beat his defender and dive over the line. Arnott showed his speed as well as his agility once more, scoring his second try with a sprint down the touch line following an Exeter turn over. The conversion was successful. Matt Goddard was the Chiefs saviour, as a determined run took Exeter two points shy of Irish with the conversion to come. With the conversion slotted and the final whistle blown, the game finished in a draw, a fair result for a game of two contrasting halves.
Final Score- Exeter Chiefs 19 London Irish 19.
Match Three: Exeter Chiefs vs Harlequins
Exeter faced a short turn around returning to the pitch to face Harlequins in the third game of the evening. Chisholm opened up the scoring for Harlequins with a solid solo effort, running the ball out of his own 22 to finish in the far right corner. Quins also got the second try, with Ben Urdapiletta dancing through the Chiefs defence to touch down under the posts with the conversion following. Quins made it a hat trick of tries in the first half with Sam Smith touching down. Half time 17-0.
Some neat handling in the Quins line at the start of the second half enabled Charlie Walker to sprint in from his own 22 off the back of a switch move. The conversion made it 24-0. Chisholm was again on the end of another Quins effort as a blindside dash saw him step inside the last defender to score. Joe Trayfoot got his name on the score sheet with some excellent running, and shortly after Quins rounded off a one-sided game with Chisholm earning himself a hat-trick.
Final Score- Harlequins 43 Exeter Chiefs 0.
Match Four: Bath Rugby vs London Irish
The hosts started positively with a close effort try from England U19's back row Will Skuse. Heathcote slotted the conversion. Try number two of the game for Bath soon followed, with the Blue, Black and Whites using the width of the pitch well, providing Joe Buckle with the space to cross over. Heathcote converted well from out wide to add the extras. However, Irish hit back quickly with spilt ball allowing them to make great yardage and eventually finding Oli Brown unopposed to scoot in just left of the posts. On the stroke of half-time London Irish equalled Bath's two tries of the half with Tim Holgate's supporting run finishing off another Irish attack. Two tries a piece but Heathcote's two conversions kept Bath ahead as they entered the second half. Half time 14-10.
With the second half underway another Holgate try for Irish put them ahead for the first time in the game, but the missed conversion meant Irish lead by a slender single point. The try was in vain however, as Bath went surging from an Irish handling error. Retrieving the ball well, Heathcote attacked his opposite man's inside shoulder releasing Jamie-John Kilmartin to score in the far left corner. A topsy-turvy match player out, as Watson showed his electric speed to put Irish ahead once more with a successful conversion making the score 19-22.
The dying moments of the game were tense as Bath looked to have scored down the wing but were to be prevented by a great covering tackle. However, keeping their composure, Paul Roberts received the ball, threw the dummy and stepped inside to dash in under the posts. Heathcote converted, the game was over and Bath had taking the win.
Final Score Bath Rugby 26 London Irish 22.
Match Five: London Irish vs Harlequins
The penultimate game of the evening saw Quins looking to make it three from three and secure their place in the final.
Irish struck first with some excellent ball skills from Charlie Broughton. Standing his defender up with a dummy and basketball like pass, he found James Lightfoot-Brown, who quickly scurried over. Quins reply was just as impressive, as the lightning quick Charlie Walker blitzed through the Irish defence to tie the scores. The successful conversion followed, taking Quins ahead by two. Smith kept Quins on course for a clean sheet as he added a try of his own shortly after. Half time 5-14.
Quins struck first in the second half with Walker once again darting between defenders to cross over. Nevertheless, Irish pulled a try back when Lightfoot-Brown hit a superb line to cut through the defence and score under the posts, followed by a successful conversion. Despite Irish's fight back, slack tackling allowed Quins to reward themselves with another try courtesy of a 70 metre sprint from Mantella. With the whistle blown, Harlequins had kept their clean sheet putting them through to the series final with the last game to decide who would join them at the Stoop.
Final Score London Irish 12 Harlequins 26.
Match Six: Bath Rugby vs Exeter Chiefs
All was to play for in the final match of the evening with Bath having won one game from two whilst Exeter had lost one and drawn one.
The home side looked on course to be going through to the final soon into the match, with a short diving effort from Matt Keyte . In contrast, a long range effort from Arnott levelled the scores with a superb conversion from England U18 Fly Half Henry Slade taking the Chiefs ahead. However, Bath hit back immediately with Kilmartin making good ground and linking up well with Heathcotem, who ran in the remaining 20 metres to score. Half time 10-7.
The second half was extremely tense and it was the Chief's Nowell who scored first to take them into the lead with Slade's conversion following. With the home crowd behind them, Bath were determined to fight back. The much needed score came through Heathcote, who touched down and then converted to take the scores to 17-14. It looked as if Bath were to finish victorious, but Slade had the final word, displaying blistering pace to score and then convert making the final score 17-21.
However, despite the Chiefs getting the win, it was Bath's greater point difference that clinched the needed points that saw them qualify for the final.
Final Score Bath Rugby 17 Exeter Chiefs 21.
Bath and Quins will face four other Premiership sides in the final on Friday 5th August at the Twickenham Stoop. Keep an eye on the website for details on how you can get tickets to join the boys there.