In a game that Harlequins managed to apply pressure and enjoy field position more frequently than their visitors, the early lead that they built in the first half of nine points was never recovered with the 15-9 win for the home team resulting in just a losing bonus point for Bath.
Quins displayed a clinical kicking show to keep notching the scoreboard, ultimately punishing Bath on a cold and wet night at The Stoop. The hosts scored five penalties to the visitors three, in a gritty arm wrestle in round two of the Heineken Champions Cup.
The first points went to the hosts, a penalty at the scrum meant that Marcus Smith had a chance at three points with just two minutes on the clock. His kick sliced through the uprights and Quins found themselves in the lead. [3-0]
Six further minutes passed and Quins added to their tally with another penalty kick. Gustard’s men gained a penalty at the breakdown, Smith pushed the kick through the posts from 35 metres out with just ten minutes gone on the clock. [6-0]
Bath’s defence was well organised and the visitors were competing well at the breakdown. The conditions started to worsen, and Bath were holding the hosts out, having small periods of possession but the territory remained with Quins.
Bath found space to attack with ten minutes on the clock with a Freddie Burns and Ruaridh McConnochie combination, but Quins defence halted the visitors attempts.
Quins got their third kick at goal with 14 minutes on the clock after Bath were penalised at the breakdown for clearing a player past the ruck. Smith nailed his kick, this time from 40m out.
In a first-half with no trys and both teams failing to get in to either 22, it was simply errors and Smith’s accuracy providing the opportunity for Quins. [9-0]
With 22 minutes gone, the hosts moved close to the Bath try line, another period of strong Bath defence held out, and the ball spun forward to give Bath a scrum. The visitors dug in and held their ground well and a free kick meant Freddie Burns was able to clear the ball taking play back to the half-way.
In what was tense and low scoring game, it was pressure and penalties that allowed Harlequins to get a grip on the game in the first 25 minutes.
Bath endured a number of Harlequins attacks and had to field kick after kick from the boot of both Danny Care and Marcus Smith, as the opposition half backs put the ball in the air and plugged space in the Bath backfield.
The pressure that had resulted in a few early infringements gave Harlequins a chance to build their lead in the first half, in an otherwise uneventful first half.
Struggling for field position and with only small amounts of possession to call their own in the first 40 minutes, Bath headed into half-time with some questions to answer, yet knowing they had seen anything special from the hosts.
HARLEQUINS 9 – 0 BATH RUGBY
Bath came out of the blocks with intent and immediately drove play into the Quins 22 for the first time but it was dampened by the Quins defence.
At 45 minutes Quins made a break and it looked like they might crash over but Marcus Smith was bought to ground just meters out as Bath continued to defend well.
Four minutes later, Quins then found another three. A penalty from a scrum out meant they had chance to kick at goal and they did just that adding to their tally with 49 minutes past. Smith slotted the ball on the tee and clipped it over the posts. [12-0]
With 11 minutes of the second-half passed Bath finally got on the scoreboard from a penalty kick. Freddie Burns found his laces to help his side get back into the game. [12-3]
Bath delivered their biggest attack of the game at 57 minutes but an inaccurate pass stopped them in their tracks. Bath managed to take a penalty from the play and Burns successfully found two from two. [12-6]
At this stage there were still no trys and really only one threatening phase of play from either team. Bath continued to shift the momentum but it was a huge wrestle with little reward.
Twenty minutes passed before the next points were found. This time a long-range penalty kick to Quins for Bath not rolling away meant that Smith delivered a further three for his side with 74 on the clock. [15-6]
At 75 minutes Quins Elia Elia was shown a yellow and the hosts were down to 14 men for the final five minutes.
The final score of the game went to Bath and it was another penalty. Burns kicked at goal to find three for his side with just two minutes to go. [15-9]
Ultimately, the lack of continuity in attack and having been unable to find a foothold through any single area of the game, Bath were never far away from Harlequins on the scoreboard, but never looked certain to challenge the oppositions defence.
In challenging conditions and with a lot at stake in terms of competition points in the Champions Cup, Bath left the Stoop both frustrated and disappointed with their lack of game control and their inability on the night to apply pressure through their attack or kicking game.
HARLEQUINS 15 – 9 BATH RUGBY
8. Francois Louw, 7. Josh Bayliss, 6. Elliot Stooke, 5. Charlie Ewels (C), 4. Josh McNally, 3. Christian Judge, 2. Jack Walker, 1. Lewis Boyce; 9. Chris Cook, 10. Freddie Burns, 11. Ruaridh McConnochie, 12. Max Wright, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 14. Semesa Rokoduguni, 15. Antony Watson
16. Tom Dunn, 17. Beno Obano, 18. Will Stuart, 19. Matt Garvey, 20. Rhys Davies, 21. Will Chudley, 22. Rhys Priestland, 23. Jamie Roberts