Rugby Union: Bath's late magic

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Bath. . . . . . .22 Harlequins. . . .11 ONE moment of magic from Simon Geoghegan, who marked his league debut for Bath with a 75-yard interception try, was all very well at the Rec yesterday. But while the champions returned to winning form, the last-gasp touchdown from Harlequins put a dampener on the already damp proceedings.

Taking the long-term view, the Bath game plan is clear cut - remain unbeaten and plug away at making up the points difference on Leicester. Then, all things being roughly equal come the middle of April, stand by for a battle at Welford Road.

John Hall, for one, is certainly not lacking anything in the confidence department. 'We know,' the Bath captain said, 'that we can overhaul the Tigers' points difference with a couple of really good performances,' although the use of the word 'can' does provide an escape clause.

For their part, Quins had obviously not read the script, because even without Brian Moore and Will Carling they made life as difficult as possible for Bath. They were helped by the conditions - a grey, wet afternoon initially making for a colourless match which, in turn, made it easier to keep the champions in check.

Hall had harked back to that memorable Cup semi-final in April, when Quins returned from the dead at The Stoop and almost snatched a dramatic victory.

There were no such dramatics this time as the pair felt their way into the contest. Boots rather than hands dominated the action, although the first kick was a rather good one.

Quins locked up the scrum, and from that platform the ball was moved smartly to Paul Challinor, who stroked a drop goal from the left. That was after only a couple of minutes, and two minutes later Bath were level thanks to a penalty from Jon Callard.

Three more penalties from Callard to one from Challinor gave Bath the edge, although Hall may have wished for something sharper in the game of catch-up with Leicester. Come the 35th minute, however, and there were smiles all round thanks to a marvellous piece of opportunism from Bath's London Irish recruit.

Geoghegan, lurking out on the left wing, must have begun to wonder if he was ever going to receive a pass. He did, but not from his new colleagues.

Challinor attempted to find Jeff Alexander with a flip-pass, and paid for his audacity when Geoghegan stepped in and, from deep in Bath territory, haired off to the other end.

And that was that from Bath, save a conversion and a second-half penalty from Callard, which meant that the late Quins try from Will Greenwood was hardly guaranteed to humour Hall.

Bath: J Callard; T Swift, P de Glanville, J Guscott, S Geoghegan; M Catt, I Sanders; V Ubogu, G Dawe, J Mallett, M Haag, A Reed, S Ojomoh, B Clarke, J Hall (capt).

Harlequins: W Greenwood; D O'Leary, J Alexander, G Thompson, A Pinnock; P Challinor, R Kitchin (capt); J Leonard, J Hamilton-Smith, S Brown, A Snow, B Davison, T Coker, C Sheasby, M Pepper.

Referee: M Bayliss (Gloucester).