Barkley leaves Quins adrift

Bath 33 - Harlequins 7
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The Independent Online

"It was the kind of match where you want to get in, play the game and then get out," explained Bath's director of rugby John Connolly after his side had comprehensively beaten a poor and dispirited Harlequins.

"It was the kind of match where you want to get in, play the game and then get out," explained Bath's director of rugby John Connolly after his side had comprehensively beaten a poor and dispirited Harlequins.

And such was their dominance - or more correctly the ineptitude of Quins - that the scoreline does not lie. Quins really were that bad and the seven points they did manage were made by Bath's fly-half, Chris Malone. Just inside his own 22 and near the gain-line he fired a pass out to the centre but Jeremy Staunton, Quins' own fly-half, had read the favoured play of Bath so early, probably on Thursday from detailed notes, that he picked off the pass for an easy score.

Unfortunately, Tom Williams returned the gesture. Olly Barkley hoisted a long, exploratory kick to Quins' right corner and, while Williams fiddled, Andrew Higgins burned up the touchline to beat the full-back to the touchdown.

Two scores, two gifts - and they were the highlights. Otherwise the match was an almost continuous sequence of blunders, dropped passes, fumbles and far too many curious decisions by the referee Nigel Owen.

The Powergen Cup may be the lesser of the trophies on offer but it certainly deserved better than some rather bizarre officiating and great expanses of empty seats in the stands. The Bath public were remarkably unmoved by the match and decided to shop rather than support.

The second half was the rout, with Barkley kicking three penalties before Steve So'oialo was consigned to the sin bin in the 63rd minute, allowing Lee Mears and Tom Cheeseman to add the final scores. Andre Vos remained stubbornly disruptive in the rucks, slowing Bath's ball, and the All Black lock Simon Maling proved adept at stealing line-out ball, but for Quins the season has been reduced to a long struggle against relegation.

"We approach the season in blocks - Heineken Cup and Zurich Premiership - and this match didn't fit into either," Connolly said, though with six difficult matches to come and a squad ravaged by injury, he may come to view the next three Powergen Cup matches as vital for securing European rugby next season.

Bath: Tries Higgins, Mears, Cheeseman; Conversions Barkley 3; Penalties Barkley 4. Harlequins: Try Staunton; Conversion Staunton.

Bath: R Davis (L Best, 72); A Higgins (T Cheeseman, 72), F Welsh, O Barkley, B Daniel; C Malone, M Baxter (S Alford, 79); M Stevens (D Barnes, 69), J Humphreys (capt; L Mears, 34), D Bell, S Borthwick, R Fidler, (D Grewcock, 54), J Scaysbrook, I Fea'unati, M Lipman (G Lewis, 79).

Harlequins: T Williams; D James, W Greenwood (G Duffy, 63), M Deane, S Keogh; J Staunton (A Jarvis, 57), S So'oialo; M Worsley (J Dawson, 69), T Fuga (A Tiatia, 49), C Jones, R Winters (S Miall, 79), S Maling, N Easter, T Diprose, A Vos (capt).

Referee: N Owen (WRFU).

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