Bath on rebound

Harlequins 19 Bath 25
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The Independent Online
THE nerves at Harlequins are starting to tingle at the bleak prospect of a life-or-death dogfight against Gloucester in six days' time. Defeat at the toughest of grounds might well relegate the poshest of clubs to grubbing around among the lower orders next season.

The irony would be that the London side should have made sure of their continuing existence in the first division of English rugby yesterday. At half-time, they were 16 points up, two tries ahead and in complete control. Forty minutes later, they had been routed, clinically taken apart by a Bath side that simply pulled itself together when it needed to, scoring three tries in eight minutes and leaving Harlequins with an unattractive trip to Kingsholm to try to avoid second division rugby.

The Harlequins coach, Keith Richardson, admitted that the club's reputation as "being not quite like other clubs" will make it much harder next Saturday, even though all his England players will be available.

He fears Quins might be the victims of inverted snobbery: "Everybody wants us down. Playing Harlequins will be like a red rag to a bull down there."

Yesterday, a reinvigorated Quins should have won after scoring two tries in the first half, the first by the competitive No 8, Chris Sheasby, and the second from the centre, Nick Greenwood. Sheasby combined particularly well with the flanker, Mick Watson, whose migration south has added steel to the Londoners. Those tries, plus three penalties by the outside-half, Paul Challinor, ought to have made it enough. But they were banking without Bath's ability to rise from the dead. A devastating short spell immediately after half-time transformed the game and Bath's - albeit slim -hopes of a fifth successive Championship.

Bath simply turned up the power and ran in tries from Jeremy Guscott, Kevin Yates and the winger Tony Swift. The young, increasingly confident but erratic outside-half, Richard Butland, kicked two penalties and a couple of conversions.

Bath's hopes of overtaking Leicester remain, just. But their coach, Brian Ashton, virtually conceded the title afterwards. "I would be startled if Leicester lost next week at home against Bristol. It looks like our title has gone unless there is a major upset," he said.

Harlequins: J Staples; C Henderson, P Mensah, W Greenwood, S Bromley; P Challinor, R Kitchin (capt); S Brown, J Hamilton-Smith, A Mullins, A Snow, P Thresher, M Watson, R Jenkins, C Sheasby.

Bath: A Lumsden; T Swift, J Guscott, K Yates, A Adebayo; R Butland, I Sanders; G Adams, J Mallett, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, J Hall (capt), S Ojomoh.

Referee: D Leslie (Manchester).