Bath Rugby never looked like losing tonight at the Rec, winning 25-6 against Harlequins in an Aviva Premiership match that also saw the long-awaited introduction to rugby union of Sam Burgess.
Bath applied constant pressure on Quins from the first whistle, winning all the territory and some fierce collisions. From a lineout in the visitors’ 22, the ball went wide and fullback Horacio Agulla stepped inside his man, delayed the offload to perfection, and allowed Matt Banahan to dive over for the first try of the match. Fly-half Ollie Devoto missed with the conversion, meaning Bath led 5-0 inside 10 minutes.
Agulla and Banahan were in bullying form in the first half, providing Bath with the impetus needed to make good go-forward. As the first quarter drew to a close, the hosts put together numerous clever phases, which culminated in Devoto unleashing Kyle Eastmond a metre from the line to score Bath’s second try. It was unfortunate that Devoto’s conversion hit the upright, but it was now 10-0 to Bath.
Quins fly-half Nick Evans got his team on the scoreboard three minutes later with a penalty kick, which Devoto cancelled out soon after when the visitors were penalised for the third successive time at the scrum. 13-3.
Half time: Bath Rugby 13 – 3 Harlequins
The whistle for the restart had not long been blown by Wayne Barnes before Evans struck his second penalty kick of the night to make it 13-6.
It was to be more than 20 minutes before further points were scored, but in that time Bath’s pack had made a magnificent statement in destroying Quins’ scrum time and again. At one point, the visitors were down to 12 men due to yellow cards but, despite frequent howls and protests from the crowd, Bath didn’t get the penalty try they were looking for. Fifteen minutes from time, Man of the Match Ross Batty piled over for Bath’s third try of the night. Then, with seven minutes left on the clock, number eight Leroy Houston barged his way to the tryline, making it a night to remember for the forwards. Devoto converted Houston’s bonus point try. 25-6.
Burgess, who took to the field in the final 20 minutes in place of Agulla and played at inside centre, showed just how hard a man he is to take down with his first touch of the ball – Quins needing four men to bring down the Yorkshireman.
The result bodes well for Bath as they prepare for their third match of European rugby next week against Montpellier.
Full time: Bath Rugby 25 – 6 Harlequins