Rugby Union: Quins back to their bad old ways

Harlequins 10 Bath 30
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HARLEQUINS CLEARLY need sympathy for their plight. The World Cup calls on the likes of Leicester, Northampton and Quins' opponents in their opening league match, Bath, are obviously as nothing compared with what the top people's club has lost.

On the evidence of this match Harlequins are clearly supplying their whole first XV to various countries in the forthcoming tournament, because they certainly did not appear to have a team for this match. Fortunately for them it took Bath almost an hour to realise that the figures confronting them on the Stoop Memorial Ground were more cardboard cut-out than flesh and blood, otherwise the scoreline would have read very differently.

It left Harlequins' new captain, Will Carling, bewildered and not a little bothered and he declared afterwards: "It was not an enjoyable experience. It was a very, very poor performance. There can be no excuses. We didn't retain the ball; our line-out was poor; our restarts were poor. It was generally poor. And that is being polite."

It was last season revisited. Harlequins began badly then, stumbling to a trio of defeats in their opening three games and this season it could go the same way. Their next two Allied Dunbar Premiership One matches are at home to Saracens in a fortnight and away at Northampton the following week.

John Gallagher, their director of rugby, said: "We thought we might have learned from the lessons of last year. We'll have to sit down with the players and give an honest call and try to find the key that unlocks the solution to this."

Despite Bath's head coach, Andy Robinson, praising his youthful side to the heavens for their performance from first whistle to last, the first half was in fact poor fare.

But at least they tried and, even without their half dozen World Cuppers, Bath, by the end, were cutting the mustard and suggesting that they may be on the verge of rediscovering some of their old verve and attitude.

On this evidence Bath have riches in abundance. Gavin Thomas, the Wales Under-21 flanker they signed from Bridgend, had a stunning game and while they are without Jeremy Guscott, Mike Catt, Phil de Glanville and Matt Perry in the backs, they should remain relatively unconcerned about the quartet's absence because Iain Balshaw, Mike Tindall, Jon Preston and especially the Australian Under-21 international Shaun Berne will make selection a source of migraine for Robinson and his ever-youthful assistant Jon Callard after the World Cup.

Harlequins: Try Keyter; Conversion Liley; Penalty Pears.

Bath: Tries Adebayo 2, Lyle, Long; Conversions Callard 2; Penalties Callard 2.

Harlequins: D O'Leary; J Keyter, D Officer, W Carling (capt); (S McCahill, 78), B Daniel; D Pears (J Liley, 55), H Harries (P Richards, 60); D Barnes, T Murphy, K Nepia (P Graham, 62), S White-Cooper, G Morgan, Z Brooke, C Sheasby (R Jenkins, 60), A Leach.

Bath: J Callard (capt) (J Millett, 80); I Balshaw, S Berne, M Tindall, A Adebayo; J Preston (N Simpson, 65-70, 78), G Cooper; C Boyd, M Reagan (A Long, 65), C Horsman (M Filipo, 72), M Haag, S Borthwick, G Thomas, D Lyle (B Sturnham, 66), N Thomas (B Sturnham 50-59).

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).

Will Carling has pulled out of the Allied Dunbar Premiership All Stars XV to play England on Saturday after aggravating a calf strain. "I am very sad to miss what was probably my last chance to appear at Twickenham," he said.