At the end of this old-fashioned mudfest the crowd reacted as if Harlequins had won the World Cup. The sheer volume and expression of celebration was an extraordinary reaction to a mundane victory by three penalties to one. There again Quins, relegated the season before last, had recorded their sixth win from eight league matches following a wretched start to the season and what was witnessed at the end may have been a sign of sheer relief that it is somebody else's turn to drop below sea level.
Dean Richards, Quins' director of rugby, was so delighted at the club's run of success that he popped open bottles of champagne in the dressing room afterwards and handed them all to the forwards. Player of the match? He said: "They were one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight."
It was Sod's Law, of course, that just before the start the overcast heavens opened and the Stoop became so saturated it could have been used for growing rice. Steve Borthwick, the Bath captain injured since the second week of the season, could have chosen a better time to launch his comeback.
Although they have beaten Quins twice this season in the European Challenge Cup, Bath have become one of the Premiership's most inconsistent sides. Just before the start they reshuffled their backs, a response to the weather, although they could have fielded seven cardboard cut-outs and it would not have made that much difference.
Bath have been regular visitors to A&E and their cause was not helped yesterday by the absence of Danny Grewcock and Lee Mears, who both received one-week bans for the offence of stamping. Richards pointed out beforehand that his club's disciplinary performance had improved to the extent that they were conceding fewer than 10 penalties per game and that, he said, was in stark contrast to Bath.
Richards was making the point for a purpose and as it happened the penalty count against Bath was in the ratio of 2:1. Adrian Jarvis - what a handy replacement he is for Andrew Mehrtens - kicked three penalties to one by Olly Barkley. Barkley sometimes plays stand-off, sometimes centre and yesterday he found himself at full-back in place of Michael Stephenson, who moved to the wing. It was like throwing the baby out with the bath water.
There were no tries as the players struggled to keep their feet, catch the ball and pass and kick it in the right direction. The closest the match came to a touchdown was midway through the first half when Jarvis, cleverly adapting to the conditions, put in a neat grubber kick inside the Bath 22. The match cried out for such wet-weather tactics and this one left Barkley all at sea. He lost possession as he slid and splashed towards the ball, David Strettle hacked on over the line and in the ensuing race between Jordan Turner-Hall, Mike Brown and Stephenson the latter was judged by the referee, Dave Pearson, to be the winner. He might have called for the assistance of a video official but as the match was not being televised that option was not available to him.
Quins had taken the lead in the third minute, when the Bath defence was lured offside and Jarvis kicked a straightforward penalty from about 30 yards. Every and any point on the board would be invaluable as a monsoon-like downpour descended.
There was one genuine threequarter move executed with skill and pace and that was when Jarvis's inside pass was taken by Strettle and the right wing - he scored a hat-trick in the impressive victory over Newcastle on New Year's Day - fed Turner-Hall, who could not elude Bath's last line of defence.
The Quins pack were a tighter, more cohesive unit. They had the upper hand in the line-out and their driving from the back row was exactly what was required under the circumstances. Behind them Jarvis and his scrum-half Danny Care also adapted better to the conditions. In the 33rd minute Care put in a perfectly judged kick to the right-hand corner; Bath's throw at the line-out was crooked and at the ensuing scrum they were penalised for not binding in the marsh. Jarvis landed the goal and at half-time Quins held a 6-0 lead.
It was by no means watertight, especially after Barkley cut the deficit to three points, but on the hour the game was up for Bath when the prop David Barnes was shown a yellow card for bringing down a maul. While the chairman of the Professional Rugby Players' Association was in the sin-bin Jarvis kicked the resultant penalty to re-establish the status quo and that was quite enough, thank you.
Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle (U Monye, 40), S Abbott, J Turner-Hall, S Keogh; A Jarvis, D Care; A Croall, T Fuga, M Ross, O Kohn, N Spanghero, A Vos, N Easter, P Volley (capt).
Bath: O Barkley; J Maddock, C Walker, E Fuimaono-Sapolu, M Stephenson; S Berne (C Malone, 65), A Williams (N Walshe, 51); D Barnes, P Dixon (R Hawkins, 58), T Sigley, S Borthwick (capt), H Louw (P Short, 49), A Beattie (R Fidler, 71), I Feau'nati, J Scaysbrook (G Delve, 51).
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).Reuse content