Friday, 28th November 2014 @ 22:40
A crowd of 13,327 were in attendance, many here to see superstar league convert Sam Burgess make his much anticipated debut, but it was the forward pack that did the majority of the damage for Bath.
Two early tries to Matt Banahan and Kyle Eastmond saw the home side take an early 10-0 lead but strong Quins defense and a poor night with the boot from Ollie Devoto meant they only went into the break leading 13-3 even after dominating territory and possession.
The second half was equal parts confusing and frustrating for both teams as 13 scrum penalties and three yellow cards against Harlequins saw the Londoners eventually succumb to the pressure, conceding two more tries and falling 25-6.
The talk all week was about English International league player Sam Burgess making his debut as a replacement but it was the rugby union Internationals that got on the scoreboard first.
First it was Banahan who latched onto a tidy Horacio Agulla offload to score in just the 8th minute. Bath then extended their lead ten minutes later as Kyle Eastmond once again held onto an offload to cross the white wash. Eastmond may have had a point to prove after England national coach Stuart Lancaster deemed his services unneeded this weekend.
Only a poor kicking display from Devoto (filling in for Gavin Henson who was a late scratch from the match day squad) kept Harlequins in the game. However against the run of play, and in just their first appearance in the opposition’s 22, Nick Evans closed the gap to 13-3 with a penalty after a barnstorming Dave Ward break.
The penalties began to add up the other way but Bath couldn’t make their dominance count and their advantage remained at 10 points as referee Wayne Barnes blew his whistle on the first half.
A vintage Nick Easter run set Harlequins up with another penalty early in the second spell, which Evans converted to bring the score to 13-6, but this was as close as they would get as the visitors began to unravel.
Constant infringing in the scrum eventually resulted in Kyle Sinckler receiving a yellow card in the 58th minute. It was the 8th infringement the front row were penalised for but by no means was it the last.
Five more penalties and two more yellow cards – one to George Robson for bringing down a maul and another to Will Collier in the resulting scrum – saw future scums become uncontested as a series of backs took their turn in the pack filling in for the sin-binned forwards. At one stage Barnes even had to consult with the coaches on the sideline as the oddity of 15 v 12 rugby caused confusion bordering on chaos.
By this stage the Bath crowd were at fever pitch as the valiant Quins defense somehow managed to hold on and even cleared the ball out of their 22. But in the 63rd minute the crowd got what they came for, however in this case it wasn’t a try but the introduction of Burgess into the centres.
While his cameo was uneventful his team eventually breached Quins line twice, first through Man of the Match Ross Batty and then through back row Leroy Houston, both the result of the forward pack wearing down a tired Harlequins outfit.
In the final minute Harlequins finally received their own scrum penalty (bringing the total to 13-1 at the set piece alone) but it was too little too late as the final whistle sounded with the score 25-6.
A tough day out for Conor O’Shea’s men but they now have nine days to recover before they face Leinster in the first of two back-to-back Champions Cup matches against the Irish powerhouse.