Marcus Smith scores stunning try as Harlequins win 76-point thriller while Bristol Bears’ charge continues

Planet Rugby
Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith scoring a try.

Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith scoring a try.

Marcus Smith scored a wonderful solo try as Harlequins edged Bath 40-36 in an entertaining Premiership encounter at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday.

The 76-point thriller was at one stage 40-3 in favour of the home outfit before an incredible fightback from Bath saw them head home with two points for their efforts.

Harlequins‘ tries were scored by Andre Esterhuizen (2), Smith, Louis Lynagh, Alex Dombrandt and Will Evans, with Smith kicking a further 10 points via conversions.

Will Muir, Alfie Barbeary, Louis Schreuder, Ruaridh McConnochie and Elliott Stooke went over for a never-say-die Bath side as they remain in second place for the time being.

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Harlequins opened the scoring inside three minutes when Danny Care, in his first game since announcing his retirement from Test rugby, sent Esterhuizen through to score.

Smith added the simple conversion before Finn Russell’s penalty put Bath on the board, only for his opposite number to come up with a typical moment of individual quality.

After receiving the ball from Care, Smith chipped it over the Bath defence before dashing into the space in behind to dot it down himself.

Quins were dominating proceedings and had their third try in the 24th minute when a big overlap on the right led to Evans feeding Tyrone Green, whose pass sent Italy winger Lynagh in at the corner.

The bonus point was in the bag for the hosts with half-an-hour played when a catch-and-drive from a line-out led to Dombrandt grounding the ball.

A fantastic first-half performance from Harlequins was then rounded off when slick hands from the irrepressible Smith and Lynagh sent Dombrandt into space on the left, with the latter’s unselfish pass giving Evans an easy finish.

The half-time break did nothing to slow Quins down, with Lynagh breaking clear before passing to Oscar Beard, who sent midfielder partner Esterhuizen clear for his second try on his 30th birthday.

Smith’s latest conversion took the score out to 40-3 before an extraordinary fightback from Bath began when Muir managed to squeeze in down the left, despite the attentions of Lynagh and Green.

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The visitors pulled another score back when Russell did superbly to get an offload away for Barbeary, who bumped off Dombrandt to score, with Harlequins’ Irne Herbst sin-binned in the aftermath.

Schreuder then went over from Jacques du Plessis’ popped pass before Lynagh saw yellow for deliberately knocking Orlando Bailey’s pass intended for Ollie Lawrence forward.

Bath then quickly scored their bonus-point try when quick hands by Schreuder, Bailey and Matt Gallagher led to McConnochie scurrying clear.

With four minutes left, the visitors pulled themselves to within four points when McConnochie’s pass put Stooke in at the corner for a converted try, but they had to settle for the two bonus points in the end.

Bristol Bears fight back to beat Gloucester

Elsewhere, Bristol Bears came from behind to overcome Gloucester 33-24 in another entertaining Premiership fixture that saw eight tries scored at Kingsholm.

Magnus Bradbury’s double, plus scores for Fitz Harding, Gabriel Oghre and Benhard Janse van Rensburg, were the highlights as Pat Lam’s side maintained their impressive run of form.

Gloucester – who had led 24-19 at the break thanks in the main to scores from Josh Hathaway, Santiago Carreras and Adam McBurney – simply could not cope with the second-half onslaught provided by the visiting Bears.

With both sides coming into the contest on the back of notable wins the previous week, it was Gloucester who set the early attacking tone against their local rivals.

Carreras saw an early penalty chance drift wide, before he was on target with the extras to the game’s opening try which arrived just minutes later when winger Hathaway latched onto his own chip over the top to dot down in the nick of time.

Home cheers, however, proved short-lived as the Bears clawed themselves level in an instance, Harding finishing off good approach work involving Steven Luatua, Ellis Genge and Janse van Rensburg, whose looped pass allowed his skipper to cruise over for the score converted by AJ MacGinty.

It was end-to-end stuff from both sides as they traded blows in attack, but it was the hosts who gave themselves some much-needed breathing space as they hit the Bears with two tries in the space of three minutes.

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Carreras profited for the first, intercepting a pass from MacGinty to race in unopposed from deep inside his own 22, before hooker McBurney added a third when he rounded off a slick home move that had seen Chris Harris and Max Llewellyn combine to deadly effect in midfield.

Despite the deficit, the Bears were still fiercely competitive and hauled themselves back into the contest when Oghre was able to power his way over by the home posts following a burst through the heart of the Gloucester defensive line.

A penalty from Carreras just past the half-hour mark allowed the Cherry & Whites to extend their lead back to 10 points, only for the Bears to once again pounce, this time through Bradbury, who was able to squeeze over in the corner following an initial burst from Harding and then smart follow-up play from Gabriel Ibitoye.

The score, plus a crucial try-saving tackle from Max Malins on Freddie Clarke, had given the Bears a real lifeline to take into the second half and they looked to build on that quickly after the restart. Malins threatened with a trademark burst through the middle, whilst Noah Heward saw a good chance spurned with a knock-on just yards from the Gloucester line.

For all Bristol’s huff and puff in attack, Lam’s side were struggling to turn possession and territory into points in front of watching England head coach Steve Borthwick.

Stubborn Gloucester resistance, combined with some elementary errors in attack, were proving costly for the Bears, but eventually their pressure paid dividends when Bradbury was able to find his way over from close range. MacGinty converted to put his side in front for the first time in the match.

It was just reward for their efforts and the Bears wrapped the game up with just five minutes remaining when Janse van Rensburg brushed aside the attentions of a Gloucester rival to race over for the converted score.

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