Match report: Stevens makes winning return
January 27, 2007
England and Lions prop Matt Stevens made a winning return to action in his first appearance for 10 months as Bath collected a 31-23 bonus point victory over Harlequins.
Stevens played the full 80 minutes at tight head and appeared to show no ill effects after a lengthy recuperation from shoulder surgery.
With Andrew Mehrtens still struggling with a hamstring injury, Harlequins restored Adrian Jarvis at fly-half while Nick Easter returned at number eight.
Chris Malone's failure to reach the 10 metre line with his kick-off immediately put Bath on the back-foot and Harlequins were 3-0 ahead in as many minutes through Jarvis' penalty.
When Bath did get into their stride Olly Barkley was off target from a metre inside his own half.
The ball was only cleared to Zak Feaunati however and he linked with Danny Grewcock in a drive to the corner.
Jarvis conceded a penalty and Steve Borthwick opted for the line-out, correctly as it turned out, because the skipper was driven over for a try converted by Barkley on nine minutes.
Quins' problems were compounded when number eight Easter sin-binned on 17 minutes for one offence too many and Barkley made it 10-3 from 20 metres.
With Quins' reduced to 14 men Bath began to cut loose.
On 25 minutes right wing Joe Maddock picked a good running line to add a second try after smart work by Barkley and James Scaysbrook.
Barkley converted again.
Jarvis did pull back three points with his second penalty but the home side hit back on the half-time whistle with their best effort so far.
From a scrum Barkley broke through in midfield and would have scored but for David Strettle's pace in covering back.
A simple pass gave Chris Malone a try in the corner and Barkley converted again to give Bath a 24- 6 half-time lead.
Quins responded to the half-time pep talk from Dean Richards by earning a third penalty for James and then a good try for full back Mike Brown after Bath's replacement fly-half Shaun Berne missed touched with a clearance kick.
Jarvis' conversion left Quins' just eight points adrift and Bath were let off when Quins had a penalty award reversed for Paul Volley's stamp on Grewcock.
Bath made the most of their escape by earning a bonus point when pressure from the forwards allowed Berne to send Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu over for a try also converted by Barkley.
Back came Quins with a try for Easter converted by Jarvis, a score which also resulted in Bath losing Nick Abendanon to the bin.
Easter then saw yellow for the second time, complaining to the referee after Will Skinner looked to have scored but was penalised for trying to play the ball after the tackle.
The visitors sought desperately for a score that would have earned them a losing bonus point but ran out of time.
Bath 31 (24)
Harlequins 23 (6)
Bath: Nick Abendanon; Joe Maddock, Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, Olly Barkley, Michael Stephenson; Chris Malone, Nick Walshe; David Barnes, Lee Mears, Matt Stevens, Steve Borthwick (capt), Danny Grewcock, Andy Beattie, James Scaysbrook, Isaac Feaunati.
Replacements: Pieter Dixon, Aaron Jarvis, Peter Short, Gareth Delve, Michael Lipman, Andy Williams, Shaun Berne.
Harlequins: Mike Brown; David Strettle, Hal Luscombe, Stuart Abbott, Simon Keogh; Adrian Jarvis, Andy Gomarsall; Aston Croall, Tani Fuga, Mike Ross, Ollie Kohn, Nicolas Spanghero, Andre Vos, Paul Volley (capt), Nick Easter.
Replacements: Jimmy Richards, Ricky Nebbett, Jim Evans, Will Skinner, Chris Hala'Ufia, Steve So'oialo, Mel Deane.
Referee: Rob Debney (Leicestershire)
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown