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Quins pull plug on Bath
John Taylor
March 10, 2001

Bath coach, John Callard, was quick to blame the latest u-turn on the status of the Zurich Championships for his team's lacklustre performance which saw them deservedly beaten by Harlequins, second from bottom of the table.

'There is very little motivation at the moment. Leicester have got the title wrapped up and the rest of us have nothing to play for, it's a great pity,' he said. 'The boys just went into their shells and played nothing like they do at home.'

His mood was in total contrast to Harlequins', Mark Evans. 'When you're coming fdrom where we're coming from every league game means alot,' he said. 'In the first half we were going through the motions because it was our second game in five days but, fortunately, Bath were too. We had a chat a half time and then it was much better,' he added with a mischievous grin.

Evans emphasised that it is important for Quins to keep their new found winning habit going. They still have a chance to qualify for next year's Heineken Cup by winning the European Shield and that gives them a very real focus.

Bath need to refocus quickly. They have had a difficult week with food poisening in the camp but they are now in danger of finishing outside the top three in the Premiership and that is the safest way to qualify for Europe next season. After that it becomes a bit of a lottery and on this showing Bath do not have too much spirit for the fight.

The game was not a great advertisement for professional club rugby which was a great pity because the 7000 plus crowd was the biggest league attendance at Quins with the exception of the 1998 match against Newcastle when there was a Geordie invasion as the 'toon army' watched Newcastle win the league and then went on to Wembley for the Cup Final.

There was precious little action of any sort in the first quarter. Paul Burke missed a penalty when Iain Balshaw anticipated Mike Catt's kick and took off too early and it was Bath who took the lead when Garrick Morgan wrapped himself around the ball after making a good tackle in front of his own posts. Matt Perry landed the simplest of chances.

At last Quins seemed ro realise they were in a match and promptly struck back with a try from Daren O'Leary. At last they strung together three phases of play and when the ball was moved right it was switched neatly inside by Nick Burrows to O'Leary who had left his wing and timed his run through the middle perfectly to score just left of the posts. It should have been an easy conversion but Burke lingered too long over the kick and pulled it wide as Shaun Berne bore down on him.

Sadly, the game then went back to sleep. Perry slipped and missed a penalty, Nick Greenstock almost broke clear and then Perry kicked another penalty from in front of the post in injury time to give Bath a lead they scarcely deserved - probably the worst half of rugby I have seen all season.

The second half began far more promisingly. Both scrum halves made sniping breaks in the opening exchanges and after six minutes Bath scored an excellent try. As the ball went left Mike Catt offloaded beautifully as he was tackled, Balshaw came across from the right wing to make the extra man and put Tom Voyce in from 20 metres.

Perry converted and then kicked a penalty given against David Wilson for handling in a ruck but the Quins skipper was furious that Bath had not been penalised for clinging on to the ball after the tackle.

At last there was a bit of passion in the play. Man of the match, Morgan, made a couple of his trademark charges and when Wilson was held back as he tried to support him Burke made Bath pay. Will Greenwood entered the fray as a replacement and immediately made an impact. He should have put O'Leary away for a try but the winger had to check to take the pass and was caught by Voyce before he was back into full stride.

Harlequins were now piling on the pressure and Burke narrowed the gap to two points with fifteen minutes left with two penalties to set up a fascinating finish. Perry kicked his fourth penalty to take Bath clear again but Greenwood suddenly scored a try out of nothing. Catt took too much time over a clearance kick and the England centre pounced to charge it down. The ball stood up perfectly for him to regather and swallow-dive triumphantly over the line. Burke converted and Quins were back in the lead
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Perry immediately put Bath in front again when Quins were offside in front of their own posts but the home side swept back to the other end and when Bath were penalised at a ruck Burke landed the decisive penalty. Quins were now in control and kept Bath pinned in their own half for the final ten minutes to run down the clock. They were good value for their victory and you can almost feel the confidence flooding back.

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