Bath 25 Harlequins 10: Berne keeps Bath on a victory roll

West Country club leapfrog Harlequins into second spot thanks to 15-point haul from lively centre but bonus point goes begging
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Bath continued to make hay while the sun shone yesterday, taking over second place in the Guinness Premiership from their London rivals Harlequins and spoiling Chris Malone's return to the Recreation Ground in the process. The centre Shaun Berne proved to be the match-winner with a tally of 15 points, including one of three tries, as Bath notched up their fourth win in five games.

Malone's successor as Bath's playmaker, the young Ryan Davis, caught the eye with a mature performance but Malone himself was off-target with a couple of early penalty attempts and looked unusually hesitant.

Bath's head coach, Steve Meehan, saw the try bonus point go begging, however, and was not totally satisfied with the performance, despite his team's spirited start to the season.

"We never looked like losing but we didn't take the opportunities to grab the game by the scruff of the neck," he said. "We had a chance to score a try early in the second half but didn't, and that became a 10-point turnaround, because Quins kicked a penalty at the other end.

"Conditions were not as easy as they might have looked from the stand because there was a lot of dew and it was not so easy to handle the ball. We are fine when we are getting it right, but it's frustrating for me when we are not quite as precise as we can be."

Harlequins' director of rugby, Dean Richards, admitted that Bath had been a lot more streetwise."In the first 20 minutes we didn't defend particularly well but we did show a lot of endeavour. Although we were only15-7 down at half-time we just didn't compete," he said.

"It's fair to say, across the board, that the boys didn't play as well as they could do. It's difficult to pick up points away from home and their pack was very experienced. I'll be very disappointed if we don't learn from today.

"The guys are very honest with themselves, realising that certain responsibilities are theirs and they can't be passed on to others. But the average age is only 24, while Bath had a lot of experienced players in their line-up, and I think that showed."

Although Bath had the majority of possession in the first quarter, Malone's tactical kicking helped keep them at bay. But when Bath infringed at a ruck, leaving Malone with an easy kick, he was off-target.

Bath came back with a break down the left but Ian Davey was dragged down by Ugo Monye. The home side were eventuallyrewarded with a Berne penalty from 45 metres in the 27th minute, and added to their score just two minutes later.

Superb approach work by the backs forced Quins to give away a penalty on the 22 but Bath played on with the advantage and the lock Peter Short barged through two tackles to scorein the corner, Berne addingthe conversion.

With Bath getting the better of the scrums and winningline-out balls unopposed, a second try was not long in coming. This time it was Michael Stephenson who came steaming off his wing to cut through for an unconverted score which opened up a 15-0 lead.

The visitors hit back with an opportunist try, the scrum-half Steve So'oialo taking a quick tap and speeding to the line to give Malone a simple conversion.

Quins had a lucky escape just after half-time when the fly-half Davis broke away and was held up on the line. But, as it started to rain, Davis spilled a passand Bath infringed at the ruck, allowing Malone to reduce the deficit to five points.

Not much had been seen of the Quins backs at this stage, but when the ball was finally moved along the line, the Welsh centre Hal Luscombe was taken man-and-ball by Tom Cheeseman.

Bath took advantage of a quickly tapped free-kick after 52 minutes which then became a straightforward penalty goal for Berne when the prop Barnes was tackled high.

Quins pressed hard with a series and pick-and-drives on the Bath line, but eventually Malone was caught in possession and the chance to swing the game their way was lost.

Bath regained the initiative shortly afterwards and Davis sent Berne to the line for the third try with a well-timed pass.

Berne converted to take Bath 25-10 ahead and they held out comfortably to deny the visitors even a losing bonus point.

Bath: Abendanon; Stephenson, Cheeseman (Crockett,17-27, 67), Berne (Flatman, 63), Davey; Davis, Claassens (Walshe, 67); Barnes, Dixon (Hawkins, 71), Ion, Short, Grewcock, Fa'amatuainu (Browne, 63), Lipman,Feau'nati (Browne, 61).

Harlequins: Brown; Monye, Luscombe, Turner-Hall, Keogh; Malone, So'oialo (Williams, 56); Jones, Fuga (Brooker, 73), Ross (Brooks, 63), Kohn (Spanghero, 63), Evans, Robshaw, Volley, Guest (Hala'ufia, 53).

Referee: A Small (London).

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