Ugo Monye was in reflective mood after scoring Harlequins' second try in Saturday's ultimately clear-cut 23-9 win over a humdrum Bath, but it was not all to do with the England wing turning 30 the same day. Monye called to mind Quins' victories away to Munster, Stade Français, Biarritz and Toulouse in recent seasons as his way of saying, if the club need to play away in the Premiership play-offs to defend their title, they can cope.
Monye was used as a second-half substitute – and he had racked his brains or someone's statistics bank to deduce that was only the 16th time in more than 200 appearances he had been on the bench – and when he came on, many supporters in The Stoop's West Stand serenaded him spontaneously with "Happy Birthday". Normally they favour the simpler chant of "Ooooooooo-go" for one of the club's most popular and long-serving figures.
It was a tender moment that was appreciated by Monye's mum, Florence, sitting with the supporters, and the payback came when Nick Evans' high ball was fumbled by Bath's Olly Woodburn and Jack Cuthbert and Monye shoed it over the line for the try that put Quins 14 points clear with 15 minutes left.
Saracens or Leicester away seems the likeliest play-off fixture for Quins, who only just edged out Northampton at home in the equivalent fixture last year when they became champions for the first time.
"It excites me," said Monye. "It doesn't matter where we play because I know when we get our game right we will challenge anyone. The last few weeks we have not got that right for various reasons. This match was tough. Whether it be Saracens or Leicester we go to they are the games we all look forward to. Over the last few years we have been written off going away to Thomond Park, Stade Français, Biarritz or Toulouse – the list goes on. I don't know what it is with this group of players but we always find a way."
Monye also said form was essential and his team have the chance to gear up when they meet Worcester away and, coincidentally, Northampton at home in the final two fixtures.
Bath's remaining matches with Leicester and Saracens make their chances of finishing in the top six to qualify for the Heineken Cup look shaky. They will hope Saracens win the Heineken to earn England a seventh spot but even that may not be enough. One European Challenge Cup trophy in 15 years is slim pickings for a club of Bath's history and Saturday's showing, without half a dozen injured players, demonstrated the importance of strength in depth – or lack of it in their case.
The excellent Ben Botica was another to do well from the bench for Harlequins and if there has been a sense of the pace catching up with them of late, Monye dismissed it. "I want to win the Premiership, it is all we have got at the moment," he said. "We are current champions, we want to defend it honourably and I feel as if we have got the squad of players to do that. First things first, we have to qualify for the play-offs and give it a real good crack.
"I will be disappointed if we lose it by not firing all our bullets. In the next few weeks, or however long our season turns out to be, we will unload everything we have got and give it the best crack."
Harlequins: Tries Care, Monye; Conversions Botica 2; Penalties Botica 3. Bath: Penalties Donald 2, Devoto. Harlequins M Brown; T Williams, G Lowe, M Hopper (B Botica, 25), S Smith (U Monye, 50); N Evans, D Care (K Dickson, 60); J Marler (M Lambert, 52), J Gray (R Buchanan, 58), J Johnston (W Collier, 63), O Kohn, G Robson (C Matthews, 17), T Guest (L Wallace, 63), C Robshaw (capt), N Easter.
Bath O Devoto (J Cuthbert, 58); O Woodburn, S Rokoduguni, K Eastmond (T Heathcote, 60), H Agulla; S Donald, M Claassens (P Stringer, 55); P James (N Catt 49), R Batty (E Guinazu, 55), D Wilson (A Perenise, 55), S Hooper (capt, W Spencer, 64), D Attwood, F Louw, M Gilbert (Taylor, 70-74), S Taylor (G Mercer, 63).
Referee W Barnes ( London).
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