Bath buoyed by Guscott

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The Independent Online

Bath spent as much time and energy re-laying their pitch as they did in the transfer market over the summer, but in recording their second consecutive maximum-points victory it was their signings rather than their seedings - and the re-emergence of a favourite perennial - that gave them greater pleasure.

Bath spent as much time and energy re-laying their pitch as they did in the transfer market over the summer, but in recording their second consecutive maximum-points victory it was their signings rather than their seedings - and the re-emergence of a favourite perennial - that gave them greater pleasure.

Although the new surface is not yet firm enough for the Bath three-quarters' liking, their new wing Rob Thirlby made a try-scoring home debut, prop David Barnes looked a solid replacement for Victor Ubogu and Jeremy Guscott made a stylish substitute's return from groin surgery after more than a year's Premiership absence.

All the same, the home side never looked likely to repeat the 77-point humiliation they inflicted on Harlequins last year, and were flattered by a score- line heavily influenced by the sin-binning of visitors Andy Dawling and Steve White-Cooper; Bath scored two tries in their absence.

Guscott was involved in two tries and brought the crowd to their feet with a turnover tackle on Keith Wood.

Bath put Quins on the back foot immediately, recycling well to race to a 10-0 lead in as many minutes. Scrum-half Jon Preston kicked them ahead with an early penalty before Thirlby got the opening try.

After capitalising on a poor Harlequins line-out, one attacking avenue closed for Bath when Matt Perry came into the line only to find the No 4 shirt of lock Martin Haag out on the right touchline instead of the anticipated No 14 of Thirlby, but the wing's excursion to the opposite flank immediately opened another scoring route. Mike Catt released Mike Tindall on the left, where the visitors' defence was sufficiently stretched for Thirlby to cruise over and give Preston a simple conversion.

Harlequins began to feel their way into the game and cut the deficit with two penalties from Paul Burke, but never enjoyed the weight of numbers with which Bath were able to surround the ball. White-Cooper was penalised for holding on as he waited for support to arrive and a loose, desperate pass from Jason Leonard would have conceded a try had Ben Clarke's kick ahead not run dead.

The Bath captain had only to wait until first-half injury time for his try, though, scored while Harlequins' Dawling was in the sin-bin. Preston and Burke had exchanged penalties to make the score 13-9 when Bath counter-attacked. Tindall released Thirlby, who danced inside before being tackled by Rory Jenkins. Tindall bulldozed on and when the ball was recycled Clarke was on hand to scramble to the line, Preston converting for 20-9 at the break.

Quins clung gamely to Bath's coat-tails, principally from two tries by Will Greenwood. The first came on 44 minutes after the Londoners had exerted some sustained pressure on the Bath line. Quins stretched play right and then left and Greenwood was given enough daylight to cross the line.

The former Leicester centre added his second try when Gollings outstripped Iain Balshaw on the left, but between those scores Bath had earned more vital breathing space with a try for Adedayo Adebayo, Perry's intervention outside Guscott creating space for the winger to make light of full-back Mark Mapletoft's weak tackle.

Preston's fourth penalty then took them 31-22 clear, and any hopes Quins had departed three minutes from time, when White-Cooper was sin-binned for not releasing Bath duly took advantage, Nathan Thomas crashing over for the converted try that gave them both the win and another four-try bonus point.

Bath: M Perry; R Thirlby (I Balshaw, 46), K Maggs, M Tindall (J Guscott, 46), A Adebayo; M Catt, J Preston; D Barnes, A Long, J Mallett (C Horsman, 64), M Haag, S Borthwick, A Gardiner, N Thomas, B Clarke (capt; G Thomas, 79).

Harlequins: M Mapletoft; N Greenstock, W Greenwood, N Burrows, B Gollings; P Burke, P Richards; J Leonard, K Wood (capt), B Starr (J Dawson, 58), A Codling, A Jones, S White-Cooper, P Sanderson (A Dawling, 31), R Jenkins (R Nias, 80).

Referee: Ed Morrison (Bristol).

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