Bath gave their hopes of making the Guinness Premiership play-offs a big shot in the arm after beating Harlequins 24-13 on Saturday.
Bath gave their hopes of making the Guinness Premiership play-offs a big shot in the arm after recording a 24-13 victory over Harlequins at the Rec.
The only disappointment from their seventh successive league win was the failure to secure a bonus point after Joe Maddock scored their third try as early as the 52nd minute.
Bath's last defeat in the Premiership was a last-minute affair at Northampton way back on December 5. It broke the spell after a miserable autumn however and heralded an extraordinary run which has propelled them from second-bottom into the top six.
Butch James, recovered from a shoulder injury, returned to partner Olly Barkley in midfield for the first time this season. Barkley made the bigger impression, however, with an imposing display at inside centre.
Tom Guest again deputised for Quins' England number eight Nick Easter, injured against France, but Danny Care resumed at scrum-half and Ugo Monye was recalled on the wing. Nick Evans took over at fly-half after missing the victory over Worcester three weeks ago while the only change in the pack saw Tani Fuga return at hooker.
Barkley, in his first appearance on the Rec since leaving for Gloucester two years ago, wasted no time in making his mark. Handed a penalty opportunity after four minutes, he found the target from 50 metres with minimal run-up.
Just as valuable in a tightly-fought first quarter was the former England centre's kicking out of hand but Quins contested the breakdown as vigorously as ever, working hard to stop the home team finding time and space to launch Matt Banahan and Maddock.
Good work by Chris Robshaw helped the visitors establish a dangerous position inside the Bath 22 but the ball was spilled and Barkley hammered the ball 70 metes downfield. But he then missed a simple chance in the 17th minute after Quins infringed at a ruck in front of the posts.
Bath's offloading game provided plenty of thrills but too many spills as well before they capitalised on a loose clearance by full-back Mike Brown. Banahan almost made the line but it took two more rucks before Barkley stepped inside a tackle to score by the posts in the 24th minute, adding the conversion for good measure.
Quins took heart from a long-range penalty miss by Barkley to put together their best spell, aided by a yellow card for Bath skipper Michael Claassens for a high and early tackle on David Strettle. Evans kicked the 35th-minute penalty and added a second on the stroke of half-time as 14-man Bath defended desperately on their own line.
Evans could have reduced Bath's advantage to one point just after the break but was wide with the penalty attempt and once Claassens returned, Bath wrested back control with two tries in four minutes.
The 48th-minute effort that took them two scores ahead was a spectacular 25-metre run-in by tighthead prop Duncan Bell after brilliant work by his front-row partner, Lee Mears, stretching the uncompromising Quins defence to breaking point. No sooner had Barkley added the conversion than Bath struck again through Maddock after Barkley and Abendanon opened up the visitors' defence on the right.
Barkley's conversion from wide out gave his side a 24-6 lead which they maintained until just four minutes from the final whistle when replacement Tom Williams finished off a long-range counter-attack. Evans added the conversion.
Tries: Barkley, Bell, Maddock
Con: Barkley 3
Pen: Evans 2
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Shontayne Hape, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 Matt Banahan, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Claassens (c), 8 Luke Watson, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Peter Short, 4 Stuart Hooper, 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Flatman.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 David Barnes, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Danny Grewcock, 20 Jonny Faamatuainu, 21 Scott Bemand, 22 Nicky Little, 23 Jack Cuthbert.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 David Strettle, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Will Skinner (c), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Robson, 4 James Percival, 3 John Andress, 2 Tani Fuga, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Chris Brooker, 17 Aston Croall, 18 James Johnston, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Chris York, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Williams.