Lewitt leaves hapless Quins in his wake

Harlequins 10 - Bath 18
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The Independent Online

From the tatters of a crowded treatment room, Bath conjured a morale-boosting win that was more reminiscent of their table-topping form of last season than anything they had hitherto produced this.

From the tatters of a crowded treatment room, Bath conjured a morale-boosting win that was more reminiscent of their table-topping form of last season than anything they had hitherto produced this.

Tries by the young backs Kieron Lewitt and Andrew Higgins were enough to shade a Harlequins side enduring their worst ever start to a Premiership campaign.

Among the more high-profile crocks were Mike Tindall of Bath and Quins' Will Greenwood, both forced to miss out through injuries sustained in previous matches in the act of scoring tries, a matter of some irony depending on your opinion of the usual potency of members of the England backline. Greenwood took a bang on the head against Northampton a fortnight ago and, though not officially concussed, he will have had a smidgen under the mandatory three-week rest, assuming he reappears as is now planned at Worcester next Saturday.

Another absentee was a third England man, the Bath lock Steve Borthwick, who was serving a seven-day suspension for attempting to inflict damage on an opponent, not himself. Yet Bath's pack was not noticeably depowered, and they deserved their second away win in succession.

Quins' attempt to break their duck - the only other time they had gone without a win in the opening four matches was in the inaugural year of league competition, 1987-88 - led to a cautious game plan. "Why don't you try using the backs?" urged a disgruntled spectator in the members' seats. The club have got a planning application in to rebuild the old West Stand, but the occupants remain a law unto themselves.

Unfortunately, when Quins did attempt to spin the ball it cost them a try a minute from the end of the first half. From a scrum on the halfway line they moved swiftly over to Ugo Monye, only for the big wing to see his forwards cough up possession. Zak Feaunati cleaned up for Bath and on the counter Olly Barkley's straight run fixed the scrambling defence and allowed Lewitt to glide past Tony Diprose with the merest hint of a dummy.

It was the 18-year-old's first touch in the Premiership - he had replaced Alex Crockett a few minutes earlier - in what we were incessantly reminded was the competition's 1,000th match. It is hardly Guinness Book of Records stuff, but the powers-that-be were determined not to let it pass unnoticed. The players' jerseys were suitably embroidered, the pitch painted and, at half-time, the 1,000th spectator through the Stoop gates was presented with 1,000 minutes of rugby (that's 13 free tickets to you and me). Of course, the most relevant statistic at that stage was Quins' 10-8 lead. An initial exchange of a penalty apiece between Barkley and Jeremy Staunton was followed by a try for Quins after 22 minutes.

Diprose intercepted a pass from Michael Lipman, support came from Andy Reay and Simon Keogh and the latter won the race to his own chip ahead when the ball squirmed awkwardly away from the covering Crockett.

Staunton's conversion for 10-3 was a counterpoint to three missed kicks in succession by Barkley, who was reprising the inside-centre role he had with England at the end of the summer tour in Australia. Bath's chosen No 10, the Australian Chris Malone, earned his corn with a drop goal 11 minutes into the second half, a correct option with all the visitors' forwards having committed themselves to picking and driving up the middle.

Quins had a purple patch around the hour mark, but failed to score. When Bath reasserted themselves they did not make the same mistake. Barkley found his range again to convert via a post after Higgins finished off a move on the short side of a ruck in the home 22.

Quins sent on the Wales and Lions wing Dafydd James for his Premiership debut, but were allowed only a couple of sniffs of a comeback, with penalties that were kicked out for line-outs but led to nothing substantial.

One throw from the replacement hooker Tani Fuga flopped into the grateful clutches of Bath's flanker, Andy Beattie, who was subsequently named man of the match. Go-ahead off the field, Quins have for the time being hit the buffers on it.

Harlequins: G Duffy; U Monye, G Harder, A Reay, S Keogh; J Staunton, S So'oialo (D James, 72); C Jones, A Tiatia (T Fuga, 67), J Dawson (M Fitzgerald, 52-67), K Rudzki, S Miall (R Winters, 50), L Sherriff (M Molitika, 72), T Diprose, A Vos (capt)

Bath: L Best; A Higgins, R Fleck, O Barkley, A Crockett (K Lewitt, 35); C Malone, N Walshe (M Wood, 55); D Barnes (M Stevens, 35), J Humphreys (capt, L Mears, 63), D Bell, R Fidler, D Grewcock, A Beattie, I Feaunati, M Lipman (G Delve, 80)

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire)

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