I took the rare step of watching some club rugby on the telly last night. Mrs wanted to go to the pub, so I suggested we go for a quick pint and then get back for the second half for when Sam Burgess would hopefully get on, but after tea we decided just to stay in and so I stuck BT Sport on with a can of lager in hand.
The first half an hour would have been difficult viewing for Harlequins fans. Bath had their scrum on toast, winning penalty after penalty, while fast play and patient build-up (I think they go together) allowed the home team to score two good tries as Matt Bananaman and Kyle Eastmond found gaps from close range.
For Bath though, obviously, it was a lot of fun. Horacio Agulla and Jonathan Joseph ran Quins ragged outside, and in the forwards Ross Batty was a real driving force.
Things settled down after the half-hour mark and Harlequins had a good chance to pull back from 13-3 down when Dave Ward set up Charlie Walker, but the winger was tackled into touch.
Speaking of Harlequins wingers, I was disappointed that Ollie Lindsay-Hague wasn’t playing – a product of two of the great British families (probably), you just look at his name and know he plays for Harlequins. Really, really good player as well. I still remember that dummy he threw to completely bamboozle our defence at KP in 2011.
Anyway back to the game. So Bath went into half-time 13-3 up and in control, maybe a little disappointed not to have a bigger lead. I’m sure Harlequins didn’t feel great, knowing that Bath still had Irish legend Peter Stringer, in-form Olly Woodburn and of course Burgess to throw at them in the second half.
Quite an enjoyable first half then.
Harlequins were almost back in the game less than a minute into the second half, Nick Easter making a great run through a gap and going one-on-one with Agulla, but the former England man dallied rather than driving on and was tackled. Harlequins were granted a penalty but the three points really could have been more.
Bath took control again, and though a threat from Wayne Barnes to Easter Harlequins honest at the next scrum, the inevitable finally happened. Though the next scrum penalty was deep in Bath’s half, Barnes lost patience and sent Kyle Sinckler to the bin. It wasn’t a surprise for me, Sinckler was thoroughly outdone by Nick Auterac. In fact, I was surprised that Quins took Mark Lambert off near the end of the first half, apparently tactically, rather than the tighthead.
George Robson soon followed for a ten-minute breather and you had to feel that it was only a matter of time until Bath scored a third try. Two more simple scrum penalties, and replacement prop Will Collier was sent off, so we went to uncontested scrums… Stuart Hooper quite legitimately pointed to Lambert but Quins insisted he is a loosehead; I’m sure he used to be a tighthead.
Still no penalty try, however.
Then it was time for the man everyone had come to see to enter the fray: Sam Burgess. But the more things change, the more they stay the same… Danny Care contrived to concede a penalty even from an uncontested scrum, but still Barnes didn’t go under the posts. But Batty touched down from a lineout maul for a try thoroughly deserved by Bath after twenty minutes of complete dominance.
The condemned men were returned onto the field for Bath over the course of the next ten minutes and, despite being robbed of thirty minutes of player minutes, Harlequins had conceded only five points. A big effort from Conor O’Shea’s Cockneys, credit where credit’s due.
Ironically, as soon as it was 15v15 again, Leroy Houston got the bonus-point try to put Bath out of sight at 25-6 with six minutes left.
There was just enough time left for former Newcastle man Batty to be named man of the match for a storming performance and, with 79 minutes on the clock, the irony continued as Harlequins won a penalty at a scrum!
Bath ran out 25-6 winners to top the Premiership tonight, though Northampton will surely overtake them on Sunday at the Kassam Stadium and Exeter host Saracens tomorrow. It was a big game from the Bathplugs, who are looking very strong this season, and it reflects well on the Falcons that we competed a lot better at the Rec the other week than Quins did tonight.
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Sam the Man much, indeed at all after he came on, and that’s because I didn’t see him very much bar a couple of carries and one big ruck. No biggie though, after all the hype Burgess was likely to fall short of the stratospheric expectations in his first game of union after just four weeks in Bath.
Really good game tonight, and Bath look like they will take some stopping in the league this year.
The rugby fun isn’t stopping for me at least this weekend. Tomorrow is the big derby at Kendal v Kirkby Lonsdale, before the main event on Sunday – the mighty Falcons v Sale. Having to watch on the computer again apparently, but at least I’ll see it. I like having a lot of rugby on TV these days, even if I don’t watch much of it!
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