Match Reports

Harlequins secure Gallagher Premiership playoff action as fans return

Saturday, 29th May 2021 @ 17:25

Harlequins secured their spot in the Gallagher Premiership semi-finals for the first time in seven seasons as the men in the Famous Quarters claimed a bonus-point win over Bath in front of fans for the first time nine months.

Quins were off to a fast start, with young openside Jack Kenningham scoring his first try for the Club, with the side in prime attacking position from close range after a monstrous display from the scrum.

Quins fly-half Marcus Smith traded a penalty apiece with opposite number Rhys Priestland before the fans were treated to a classic Harlequins score.

Defence turned into attack as wing Joe Marchant scooped up loose Bath possession, bamboozling opposite number Joe Cokanasiga with pace and footwork before feeding inside for blindside Tom Lawday to give the try-scoring pass to scrum-half Danny Care. Smith converted to take Quins into double digits on the scoreboard at 15-3.

Bath were not ready to allow Quins to stroll into the play-offs in front of their fans easily, however, with tries for former lock Josh McNally and England Sevens man Will Muir paired with a Rhys Priestland penalty sending Bath into a 15-18 lead for the first time that day with half an hour played.

The force of fans back in The Stoop provided Quins the energy they needed to retake the lead and further press their advantage before the break, with one of the day’s standout performers Marchant and outside centre Luke Northmore claiming scores converted by Smith, and an additional penalty, to allow the home side a 14-point buffer heading into the changing rooms.

Despite lively changing room discussions, the second half was off to a bad start, with Bath coming out the blocks fastest with a second try for Muir, while Marchant was shown a yellow in the 49th minute for cynical breakdown play as Bath and England openside Sam Underhill broke clean through the Harlequins defence.

Bath jumped on their one-man advantage, with a Priestland penalty followed by a try for reserve flanker Josh Bayliss. Priestland’s conversion took Bath to a one-point lead with just under half an hour to go.

Quins fought desperately to keep Bath from earning further benefit from their advantage, with fullback Tyrone Green and wing Nathan Earle pulling off spectacular defensive efforts to prevent Bath scores.

With Marchant restored to the pitch, Quins seemed to go back up into fifth gear in the face of losing an early lead to hand Bath the win, with number eight Alex Dombrandt throwing an exceptional, basketball offload over his head to send captain Stephan Lewies over for Quins’ fifth try. Smith added the conversion to take Quins into a six-point lead with 20 minutes left to play.

Less than a converted score ahead, Smith looked to expand the advantage, but uncharacteristically missed three penalties in a row. Instead, Quins turned to reserve scrum-half Martin Landajo for the dramatic finish the day deserved.

The Argentinian international stepped and spun around and through Bath defenders for a sensational score that would take Quins ahead by 11 points. Despite Marchant missing the conversion, Quins held possession and kicked the ball far into the stands as the Club secured playoff action for the first time in seven seasons.

Final score: Harlequins 44-33 Bath Rugby

Next match: Sale Sharks vs Harlequins. Friday, June 4, kick-off 19:45. Twickenham Stoop. Live on BT Sport.