Rugby Union: Schuster takes advantage

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Harlequins 43

Bath 31

ON AN afternoon when British and Irish international requirements deprived Bath of a third of their side, Harlequins must have been delighted that Western Samoa did not have a fixture.

That would have cost Quins the services of John Schuster, and the better part of 30 points. To his usual crop of goal-kicks, Schuster added two crisp and decisive tries as his side coped far the better with their losses to international duty.

While Bath sorely missed Guscott, Perry, Maggs, Hilton and Peters, their hosts confidently papered over the cracks left by the absence of Luger, Wood and Leonard. Jason Keyter stepped into the shoes of Quins' top try-scorer Luger by scoring two fine tries of his own, while the man charged with replacing Bath's top points scorer Catt endured a miserable afternoon. Jon Preston's league debut ended after less than half an hour when he was forced off by an ankle injury.

The former All Black's misery was shared by his team-mates, who trailed 24-9 at the break. Schuster's boot gave Quins an early edge, the only blot on his copybook being a difficult conversion miss after his side had stretched the Bath defence to create room for Keyter to dash in on the left.

Their second try was even more impressively constructed. Thierry Lacroix worked a slick scissors with Scott Stewart to send the ball back to the Bath five-metre line. When the ball was recycled, Zinzan Brooke timed his pass perfectly to send Schuster in untouched. He wasted little time in repeating the dose after the break, taking Quins' lead beyond 20 points when Lacroix's neat pop-pass allowed him to ghost through. Bath replied quickly when Kevin Yates' stretch to the line was followed by Jon Callard's second penalty, but their hosts soon regained their advantage, Keyter powering past Ieuan Evans to claim his second try.

Andy Nicol and Iain Balshaw raised Bath's spirits with a try apiece to close the gap to seven points, but Quins enjoyed the last word when Garrick Morgan crashed over from close range.

Harlequins: S Stewart; D O'Leary, D Officer (P Mensah, 68), J Schuster, J Keyter; T Lacroix, H Harries (C Wright, 68); D Barnes, C Ridgway (T Murphy, 43-48, 76), G Halpin (A Yates, 60), G Llewellyn (B Davison, 68), G Morgan, Z Brooke, C Sheasby, R Jenkins (A Leach, 56).

Bath: I Balshaw; I Evans (J Fallon, 64), M Tindall, P de Glanville, A Adebayo; J Preston (J Callard, 26), A Nicol; K Yates, A Long (M Regan, 42), V Ubogu, M Haag, N Redman (D Jones, 33), R Earnshaw, B Sturnham, R Webster (R Bryan, 46).

Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire).