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Bath battle Harlequins into added time but fall short at the death

By PA
Ollie Lawrence of Bath charges upfield during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Harlequins reeled off a fourth successive Gallagher Premiership victory after halting Bath’s recent resurgence by winning 19-13 at the Recreation Ground.

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Quins cut the gap to just two points on second-placed Sale Sharks before a fortnight’s break for European action.

They were made to work hard for it by a Bath side transformed under new head of rugby Johann van Graan, finishing the game with 13 players after flanker Jack Kenningham and replacement hooker George Head received yellow cards.

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A try count of 3-1 in Quins’ favour told its own story, though, and Bath could not get quite close enough.

Skipper Alex Dombrandt, centre Oscar Beard and full-back Nick David touched down, with fly-half Tommy Allan kicking two conversions as Quins put the absence of an injured Marcus Smith behind them.

Wing Will Butt scored a second-half try for Bath, while Orlando Bailey and Piers Francis each landed a penalty, and Bailey a conversion.

Given their set-piece dominance, Quins should arguably have posted a more comfortable triumph, yet four points on the road against a Bath team bolstered by a number of recent new arrivals proved an impressive night’s work.

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Wing Joe Cokanasiga returned from England duty to make a first Bath start since October, while centre Cameron Redpath and number eight Josh Bayliss also returned to the starting line-up.

Smith was absent for Quins, being sidelined for at least the rest of this year after suffering an ankle injury during England’s Autumn Nations Series defeat against South Africa last Saturday.

Quins settled quickly and, after David’s break tested the Bath defence, they took a sixth-minute lead.

Patient phase-play knocked Bath back, and they were powerless to prevent Dombrandt from crashing over between the posts for a try that Allan converted.

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Bailey kicked an 11th-minute penalty to open Bath’s account, but Quins held the upper hand and they added a second try midway through the first-half.

Their forwards again did the groundwork, keeping possession expertly inside Bath’s 22, and Beard applied a strong finish from close range that made it 12-3.

Bath’s cause was not helped by Bailey missing two 35-metre penalty chances in quick succession, but Quins could not reward their dominance with further points before the break.

A nine-point advantage was scant reward after they dominated Bath in the scrums and showcased superior pace and creativity when the ball was worked wide.

But Bath came out firing for the second period, and they put themselves firmly back in the contest when Butt finished impressively after Redpath’s half-break.

Bailey converted, and Quins were rattled, with David knocking on inside his own 22 from a kick that he should have comfortably dealt with.

David made amends shortly afterwards, applying an incisive finish after more Quins scrum pressure, and Allan converted to make it 19-10 before a Francis penalty kept Bath in touch.

The closing stages belonged to Bath, as they laid siege deep inside Quins’ half, launching some menacing lineout drives that took them just inches short of a potential match-winning try.

Referee Andrew Brace needed television match official checks on two occasions before Quins could breathe a huge collective sigh of relief.

And the visitors closed out the contest, albeit following sustained Bath pressure deep into added time.

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