Harlequins 31-17 Bath: Tabai Matson’s men bag five tries to leapfrog Northampton back into second as Marcus Smith stars once more with 14 points against rock-bottom opponents
- Andre Esterhuizen’s two early tries saw the opening stages go as expected
- However, Bath rallied following Joe Marler’s yellow card and went in 17-12 up
- Harlequins reassumed control after the break though as Marcus Smith scored
- Joe Marchant then got in amongst the points before Smith got his second try
Two hours after the final whistle, Tabai Matson bounced into the media room and offered to buy a round of beers for the journalists.
The Harlequins coach had just watched his team secure a ninth successive bonus-point victory at home, and outside his players were drinking it in.
In contrast, Bath were left to endure another grim bus journey home.
Marcus Smith was influential once more as Harlequins moved back up to second in the table
This was their fifth straight defeat, consolidating their worst ever start to a Premiership campaign, and the mood in the two camps could not have been further apart.
If it’s any consolation, Bath’s director Stuart Hooper can be thankful that Marcus Smith’s brilliance diverted the headlines away from his club’s miserable run.
Like a smiling assassin, Smith scored a try and set up another in his final club appearance before he joins England for the autumn internationals.
‘Good players like Marcus keep their powder dry until the opportunity arises and he definitely did that out there,’ said Matson.
The hosts made a fast start as two Andre Esterhuizen tries gave them 12-3 lead early on
‘I hope he gets opportunities with England. Eddie Jones has been speaking really positively about the intent that they want to show in the autumn. If they want to do that, these guys are your men.’
Smith’s second-half try snatched back the lead for Harlequins and put the champions on course for another victory.
They cut loose in the closing stages but, for 50 minutes, Bath frustrated them with a show of resistance.
Their desperation was clear to see following last week’s 17-71 drubbing by Saracens. Beno Obano charged at defenders like a mad bull until his knee gave way.
However, Bath capitalised on a yellow card for Joe Marler to score 14 unanswered points
A dazed Joe Simpson shoved a medic out of the way so he could stay in the fight to make a cover tackle. Sam Underhill crunched ribs and did his damned best to slow down Harlequins’ ball.
‘Our backs are against the wall and when you are in this position you have to take a step forward,’ said Hooper, whose position will remain under scrutiny until he stops the rot.
‘We know where we are headed and the steps we have to take.’
Smith then finished in style to swing the scoreline back in Quins’ favour after the break
Results speak louder than words.
Two early tries from Andre Esterhuizen gave Harlequins the lead.
Then Joe Marler was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous no-arms tackle on Tom de Glanville and Bath made the numerical advantage pay.
Building a platform from the lineout, Underhill and Will Stuart hit back with quick-fire tries.
Joe Marchant also got a try of his own before Smith bagged his second of the afternoon
However, Bath’s resistance didn’t last. In the second half they were crippled by penalties and punished for poor exit play in their own 22. Richard de Carpentier ran into Tom Dunn and Semesa Rokoduguni lost the ball trying to run the ball from his own try-line.
Quins have become the hottest ticket in town and the league’s great entertainers cut loose.
Tyrone Green jinked through tackles. Alex Dombrandt, catching the ball above his head in one hand, threw a try-scoring offload to Joe Marchant that left his coach bedazzled.
Stuart Hooper’s Bath are rock bottom of the Gallagher Premiership with some losses from five
‘It shows an exceptional amount of spatial awareness,’ said Matson. ‘Alex has a unique skillset. There aren’t many forwards in the world who can do the things he does.’
Not content with the bonus-point try, Quins had one last trick up their sleeve. This time it was Green with the speculative offload, which landed in Smith’s hands and ended with Marchant diving over in the corner.
From that moment, the Saturday night party had well and truly started.
Rob Baxter is already looking forward to the clash with Gloucester on Friday night, when Exeter will be determined to make amends for a conclusive 33-21 defeat by London Irish.
The Exiles snared their first Gallagher Premiership victory in the round-six collision, departing Devon as worthy winners, having never trailed.
But Exeter helped them with an erratic performance that was missing an edge and they coughed up some soft tries.
‘We were lacking something,’ Exeter director of rugby Baxter said.
‘It doesn’t feel like a blood and guts loss, it feels like a pretty poor loss. Individually our intensity was off and because of that our team intensity was off. The hardest thing in sport is to find the motivation to fight all the time’