Easter uprising conceals Quins' bloody past

Harlequins 13 Bath 11
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The Independent Online

Nick Easter's reward for scoring the try which kick-started Harlequins' season could be omission from the team to meet Cardiff Blues in the opening round of the Heineken Cup.

Both Easter and his Quins and England team-mate Ugo Monye need to be rested for one match in the next two weeks under the Premiership clubs' agreement with the national squad. With Toulouse due at the Stoop in 12 days' time, it is likely to be Saturday's trip to Wales which the pair will miss.

There may be a third England player absent but the position of Danny Care, the scrum-half, is less clear. Care sat out a match earlier this season with a hand injury and it requires consultation between club and country to decide if that fulfilled the quota of one free weekend before the autumn Tests.

Monye failed to finish against Bath after feeling a twinge in his left hamstring; likewise Bath's England wing Matt Banahan limped off. But Easter, the No.8, was there to the tumultuous end when he drove over for the try which, with Nick Evans' conversion, secured Quins their first win in the Premiership following three defeats and a draw.

Easter needed 10 stitches to a wound which gave him the look of a Japanese martial arts fighter, with a white bandage bearing a circular red splodge on the forehead. The try was awarded by the television match official, and Easter said: "Luckily the strapping didn't impair my vision. I knew I had scored."

While Quins' head coach John Kingston stuck to his line that injuries had affected his side's form since they finished second in last season's Premiership much more than the long-running Bloodgate furore, Evans demurred. "It's taken a while to believe we can do what we used to do with [former director of rugby] Dean Richards around," said Evans, who played more like his old All Black self than the hapless participant in the fake-blood ruse of last April. The fly-half also suggested someone with "a presence" equal to Richards's was needed to "fill the void". A Quins director said candidates from the top 10 coaches around the world were interested, but ruled out Sean Fitzpatrick, the former New Zealand captain who is on the club's board

As for Bath, this defeat hurt. With more graft than craft they led 11-6 with five minutes of normal time remaining, and were let off when Quins' young replacement Rory Clegg spilled a scoring pass. But a late wave of Harlequins penalties, scrums and line-outs were marshalled superbly by Easter and Care until the clinching score. Clegg probably learned a lot in that short spell on the field.

Evans said 'Bloodgate' was "fish and chip paper now", then admitted the fans at the Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday may see it differently. Tom Williams, Quins' capsule-chewing wing, is due back from suspension next month and the game at large is still debating the wider implications.

Winning rugby is the best remedy. As Easter put it: "It's a big corner to turn. We were probably a bit unlucky not to snatch it the previous week at Newcastle, that was at least a stepping stone."

Harlequins: Try: Easter; Penalties Evans 2; Conversion; Evans.

Bath: Try: Hape; Penalties Little 2.

Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle, G Tiesi (R Clegg 70), T Masson, U Monye (G Camacho 53); N Evans, D Care; C Jones, G Botha (T Fuga 63), J Andress (J Johnston, 60), L Stevenson, J Evans (S O'Connor 77), C Robshaw (T Guest 63), W Skinner (capt), N Easter (Guest 33-40).

Bath: N Abendanon; J Maddock, M Carraro, S Hape, M Banahan (J Cuthbert 64); N Little, M Claassens (capt); D Flatman (D Barnes 55), P Dixon, D Bell, P Short (D Grewcock 55), S Hooper, A Beattie (J Faamatuainu 64), J Salvi (Faamatuainu 29-40), B Skirving.

Referee: W Barnes (London).