Already league champions, Bath were lucky to have hauled themselves to the 100th minute level with Harlequins at
12-12. This epic final had been a firework show that was about to end in the damp squib of a shared cup - which would have been the least Quins deserved for a contribution quite out of keeping with their pre-match tribulations.
In particular the suspension of Mick Skinner and Richard Langhorn had caused them to drag the England lock Paul Ackford from retirement and select the flanker Mark Russell even though he had not played for three months. Both performed superbly and if Quins had not passed up their chances they would have been spared the agony of extra time. 'I was,' Ackford said, 'completely worn out after 10 minutes let alone 100.'
Whatever Ackford's exhaustion, it was Harlequins not Bath who were the stronger going through that 20-minute eternity. Their outside-half Paul Challinor - now in the England squad - had missed one drop-shot towards the end of normal time; Jeremy Guscott missed one for Bath in the first period of extra time. During four excruciating minutes of the second period another Harlequin, David Pears, missed three drops and Challinor another one, the last with a single minute left.
But once Bath had raised the siege the only remaining chance fell to them. Nigel Redman had just enough spring in his stride to win the very last line-out and Barnes fatefully swung his leg. The ball scraped over, Fred Howard's arm went up and his final whistle blew.
'I thought about an up-and-under but when I looked at the other Bath players I saw they were as tired as I was,' Barnes croaked. 'I took a long, slow swing because I didn't have any strength left to hit the ball any harder, but as it happened that was the best way to strike the ball. I suppose I ought to say it was never in doubt.'
As the Bath players jumped for joy, their senses attacked by the crowd's mighty roar, most of the Quins were slumped heartbroken on their knees. It was magnificent, unbearably cruel and quite, quite unforgettable.
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