Catt is found wanting

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Harlequins 13

Bath 19

IN THE past couple of games Bath appeared to have embarked on a crusade to restore the lustre to a game in danger of strangling itself to death. Last Saturday they dismantled Bristol with an irresistible display of running rugby and yesterday, against more formidable opponents, they once again demonstrated admirable willingness to display the richness and variety the game offers. It was an exhilarating spectacle not least because Harlequins, with much less to work with, showed an equal propensity to keep the ball alive. If the skills couldn't quite match the intent, the attitude of both sides was heartening.

In the battle for succession at fly-half there was no clear-cut winner, if only because neither Mike Catt nor David Pears looked the complete article and because neither managed to last the course. Incredibly, in going for the ball they collided, the impact forcing both from the field simultaneously with similar leg injuries. Neither injury though is thought to be serious.

Catt, behind his alert and nimble pack and on the end of Ian Sanders' precise service, had many more opportunities to show the range of skills required for the position. For most of the time, however, he was content to act in a subservient role as a feeder for his threequarters rather than as a shaper of the play and controller of the game. That is what Paul Turner does so effectively for Sale and it is the essence of fly- half play. He should be the conductor, producer and director around whom team strategy revolves. Although both contenders yesterday avoided calamitous error, neither made any vivid contribution to what was a thoroughly enjoyable game in which there was intelligent running, innumerable clattering tackles and two beautiful tries.

Bath's try came hard on the heels of a thrilling counter attack, Adedayo Adebayo the solitary figure dashing 60 yards from his own line before being taken down by Jim Staples, whose heroic industry in defence Quins sadly missed after he left the field at half-time. The Irish full-back did his best to stem the flow of Bath's next attack, but this time he was less successful. From the line-out, Jeremy Guscott broke and although Staples had Phil de Glanville in his grasp, the angle of Audley Lumsden's run carried him through the gap to score.

Two minutes later Harlequins were level. This time the plot was hatched from the scrum and it was Will Carling's shrewdly delayed pass which opened the way for Darren O'Leary's try. Jon Callard and Pears kicked the conversions to add to their earlier penalties and the scores remained level until the interval.

The pace of the game dropped in the second half, but there was still a steady stream of incident and accident. Bath's greater weight of possession inevitably took its toll on the Quins defence and Callard, with three penalties, took them clear and into comparative safety. But Pears, whose line kicking had been disturbingly erratic, also missed with two penalties, although he redeemed himself almost immediately by dropping a goal from an unlikely position. Then followed his departure alongside his opposite number and rival Catt. For Jack Rowell there was the fleeting prospect that, in less than three days, he had lost the three best fly-halves in England.

Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary, W Carling, P Mensah, S Bromley; D Pears, R Kitchin (capt); S Brown, S Mitchell, A Mullins, A Snow, P Thresher, M Russell, G Allison, M Watson.

Bath: J Callard; A Lumsden, P de Glanville (capt), J Guscott, A Adebayo; M Catt, I Sanders; D Hilton, G Dawe, V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman, A Robinson, E Peters, B Clarke. Referee: C White (Gloucester).