How have the mighty fallen and we are not just talking about Graham Henry. Bath and Harlequins, two of the Premiership's pedigree chums, have been reduced to fighting over scraps and yesterday the survival instinct brought out the best and, occasionally, the worst in both of them.
Henry's abrupt departure from Wales confirms the impression that rugby coaches are becoming as expendable and vulnerable as their counterparts in football. If success breeds success, failure fathers despair and panic. It has a big price tag and can only be tolerated by the magnanimous So yesterday's basement affair produced a dog-fight of Crufts' quality.
In the end Mike Catt and Bath emerged with the precious point, plunging Quins, who suffered their seventh successive Premiership defeat, closer to relegation. Only Leeds, who have games in hand, are below them in the table and that could soon change.
John Kingston, the Quins coach, preferred to play his ace here rather than his excellent back-row forward Tu Tamarua. Into the middle of the front row came Ace Tiatia, a one-man demolition squad. Because of the restrictions on overseas players, there was no room for both and Tiatia soon made his presence felt. He almost dissected Dan Lyle with a huge tackle and then stopped Gavin Thomas in his tracks with an even bigger hit. It was bound to end in Tiatia.
After 38 minutes the Samoan was shown a yellow card, which was very good news for Danny Grewcock. At the time Ace had the hard-nut England lock pinned to the floor and might have buried him but for the intervention of the referee.
It was as well that the hit on Lyle had not come earlier, for the Bath captain, who was eventually replaced, had had time to display his astonishing skill with one of the great finishes of the season.
It came in the ninth minute when Steve Borthwick pinched a Quins line-out near the halfway line and Catt's long pass created room for Matt Perry and Iain Balshaw to release Tom Voyce on the left wing. When Voyce checked inside close to the line, he managed to flick a desperate pass to Lyle and the American, at full pace, with no room to manoeuvre and being shoved in the back while in mid-air, somehow managed to plant the ball over the line before disappearing into the advertising hoardings.
Bath had already touched down, courtesy of Catt in the fourth minute and that too was an extraordinary score. Catt, dropped by England last week and clearly intent on impressing Clive Woodward, one of the spectators here in a sell-out crowd, cut inside after taking the ball from a line-out, weaved his way through the Quins forwards and then veered outside to bemuse the visiting threequarter line before crossing at the posts.
After that nothing came as easy. A marvellous pass from Will Greenwood put Rob Jewell in the clear but Perry prevented the try with a splendid tackle. The full-back then dropped a goal to put Bath 15-3 in front, Paul Burke having kicked an early penalty.
Burke added a second five minutes after the break and with the Quins forwards completing for everything, Bath were by no means in the clear. A Catt fumble in midfield presented Burke with the opportunity to hack on towards the Bath posts, when Nathan Thomas did remarkably well to smother the danger. Quins were still probing and after mounting a great rolling maul which trundled on and on towards the Bath line, Burke was presented with a chance of a drop goal and took it, the ball going over via the top of the crossbar. At 15-9 it was becoming ever more fraught but after Burke fell short with a penalty attempt Olly Barkley calmed Bath's nerves with a penalty that put them two scores to the good.
They needed the leeway, for Quins never let up. Chris Bell, the young centre, who had replaced Nick Burrows, was put through a gap by another perfect pass from Greenwood and only an ankle tap from Balshaw saved a score.
Unlike Bath and Lyle, Quins cannot seem to finish anything that they start and are, of course, desperately missing the injured England wing Dan Luger. They are not short of ammunition but have few volunteers to fire it.
Quins have a national knock-out cup semi-final to look forward to but they can no sooner think about that than the prospect of dropping out of the Premiership.
Jon Callard, the Bath coach, who has fallen out of the habit of lifting silverware, was relieved at the outcome but brassed off with the Welsh Rugby Union.
Gareth Cooper and Gavin Thomas got a call to attend Wales squad training on Thursday which meant they missed Bath's run-out on Friday. Nobody told Callard, who has fired a broadside at the new Welsh management.
Bath: M Perry; I Balshaw, K Maggs, O Barkley, T Voyce; M Catt, G Cooper (R Chrystie, 66); D Barnes, M Regan, S Emms, S Borthwick (J Scaysbrook, 84), D Grewcock, G Thomas, D Lyle (capt; M Gabey, 50), N Thomas.
Harlequins: D Slemen; M Moore, W Greenwood, N Burrows (C Bell, 56), R Jewell; P Burke, N Duncombe, J Leonard, A Tiatia, A Olver (B Douglas, 69), G Morgan (capt), S White- Cooper, R Winters (A Codling, 69), T Diprose, L Sherriff.
Referee: C White (Cheltenham)Reuse content