A tremendous fight back in the final quarter couldn't prevent NEC Harlequins from suffering a 27-24 defeat against Bath in the Guinness A League at the Stoop last night (Monday 3rd October). Three tries in quick succession after half-time gave the visitors a 20-point lead (27-7) going into the last 20 minutes, but Quins hit back with three tries of their own to set-up a grandstand finale, before time ran out for the home side.
Mike Brown had the opportunity to put the first points on the scoreboard but saw two penalty attempts fail to find the target; the first coming back off the upright and the second, a minute later, pushed wide from in front of the posts. The Quins centre was then sent to the sin-bin for deliberate offside and with their extra man advantage, Bath opened the scoring after 28 minutes.
Despite some excellent defence from the hosts, they couldn't prevent number eight Chris Goodman from claiming the opening try of the night from close range, which fly half Chris Malone converted. Quins hit back just three minutes later and with the forwards in control at the set-piece throughout the night, it was no surprise when Ceri Jones was driven over for the five points from a lineout close to the Bath line.
Luther Marais took over the kicking duties and his successful conversion tied the game at seven-all. A late tackle from Ian Vass on Bath centre George Hughes ended with Malone converting the resulting penalty and giving the visitors a three-point lead at the break (10-7).
Two tries in the opening nine minutes after the restart from winger Mike Mangeolles, the second converted by Malone, extended Bath's lead to 22-7, before fellow winger Peter Murchie scored in the right hand corner from a scrum five metres from the Quins line. It was Malone's turn to see a kick at goal hit the post and fall the wrong side of the crossbar, but despite the missed conversion Bath seemed to be in complete control leading 27-7.
A forward pass from Jordan Turner-Hall to Gavin Duffy meant Quins had a try disallowed straight from the restart but moments later, and with Bath full back Mike Baxter sin-binned for a professional foul, Vass sent Kevin Fisher over in the corner with a fine cut out pass. Marais missed the conversion but the deficit was down to 15 points (12-27).
Quins dominated proceedings from then on but were unable to add to their tally further until two minutes from the end. Duffy made an excellent break into the Bath twenty-two, where Luke Sherriff was in support to power his was over under the posts, leaving Marais with a simple conversion and make the score 19-27.
With the game in injury time, a second try from Sherriff put Quins to within one score of their opponents (24-27) despite Marais failing to add the two extra points. From the restart, Quins launched a terrific counter attack from their own twenty-two but with the ball being knocked-on, the final whistle followed to deny the home side claiming an unlikely victory.
Final score, 24-27.
NEC Harlequins XV: 15. Luther Marais, 14. Kiba Richards, 13. Mike Brown, 12. Jordan Turner-Hall, 11. Kevin Fisher, 10. Ian Vass, 9. Duncan James, 1. Ceri Jones, 2. Jimmy Richards, 3. Aston Croall, 4. James Inglis, 5. Kevin Burke, 6. George Robson, 7. Luke Sherriff, 8. Tom Guest
Replacements: 16. Simon Goldsmith, 17. Dave Millard, 18. Mike Worsley, 19. Mike Blakeburn, 20. Steve So'oialo, 21. Will Maddox, 22. Gavin Duffy
Bath XV: 15. Mike Baxter, 14. Peter Murchie, 13. George Hughes, 12. Spencer Davey, 11. Mike Mangeolles, 10. Chris Malone, 9. Nick Walshe, 1. Chris Loader, 2. Rob Hawkins, 3. Aaron Jarvis, 4. James Hudson, 5. Dan Smith, 6. Gary Holmes, 7. Jamie Miller, 8. Chris Goodman
Replacements: Sam Alford, Chris Brooker, Ben Mercer, Ian Davey, Fraser Cliverd, Simon Puckering, Robbie Dugard, John Gould
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.