Friday, 8th May 2015 @ 21:50
Harlequins’ heroic winger Ugo Monye marked his final match at The Twickenham Stoop during the narrow 26-27 defeat against Bath Rugby with a stunning brace and a man of the match award.
In a match where momentum constantly swung in both sides’ favour, it set up a grandstand finish. Nail-bitingly tight until the end, it was George Ford’s 74th minute penalty that proved the killer blow as Bath secured their place in the playoffs.
Harlequins, who are now unable to qualify for the Champions Cup next season, will go into the summer months, and next week’s match with Newcastle, with many positives following an excellent and spirited performance.
The match was also a celebration for a number of players making their final appearance at The Stoop. George Robson, who moves to Oyannax next year, was sadly subbed early, but recieved a warm applause as he departed the field.
Although Bath had the early advantage in this exciting match, Marland Yarde signalled Harlequins’ intent early on by slicing through the Bath defence. Offloading to Care who ran into the Harlequins 22, possession was recycled quickly, shipped wide and Monye crossed the line to send The Stoop into a state of euphoria.
Bath then took control of the match and camped themselves in the Harlequins half. Their back line caused a number of issues for Harlequins with Leroy Houston and Jonathan Joseph keeping the defence guessing. Ford got his side on the scoreboard with his first penalty attempt.
The fly-half played an integral role in the 11th minute to take Bath into the lead. Playing deep in the Harlequins half, the ball worked through the hands of Ford, Kyle Eastmond and Houston, before captain Francois Louw bundled over.
Inspiring Harlequins to respond, Danny Care took a trademark quick tap penalty in the 25th minute. Dave Attwood tackled the scrum-half too early in the following breakdown and Evans was happy to reduce the deficit to two points.
Quins made another dent in the Bath armour with a penalty try two minutes from half-time. The forwards had a difficult evening in the set pieces, but overcame the Bath pack for an exciting score. With the conversion, Harlequins lead 15-10 at the break.
A slight lapse in concentration in the early stages of the second half saw Argentinian winger Horacio Agulla stroll past the defence to score. Ford put his side back in to the lead with the conversion.
As the second half progressed, momentum continually changed hands. When George Lowe broke free of the line and stormed down the left wing, it took the huge frame of Matt Banahan to haul him down. In the resulting minutes, Evans converted a penalty. Slotting another penalty just minutes later, Harlequins had a relatively comfortable lead at 21-17.
Such was the nature of this match, it took just five minutes for Houston to dot over the whitewash, finishing off another excellently executed try; Max Lahiff and Burgess combined before the eight scored.
Setting up an exciting finale, just after the hour mark, Dave Ward made a crucial turnover and fed Jack Clifford.
The young back row showed excellent skill to offload to Monye, who rolled back the years, to run over Jonathan Joseph, score as The Stoop erupted once more. Although Evans missed the conversion, Harlequins lead 26-24.
With a nail-biting finale, Ford converted to steal the win.