Big Summer Kick-Off – Harlequins suffer 35-45 defeat in Twickenham thriller
24th Apr 2023 | Rugby
Harlequins hosted Bath Rugby at Twickenham Stadium for the second annual Big Summer Kick-Off.
The 44,148 strong crowd were treated to an electric build-up with Kaiser Chiefs in full voice, before a thrilling Gallagher Premiership match, which saw Bath run out 35-45 victors.
With scrum-half Danny Care a late withdrawal due to injury, Lewis Gjaltema started in the number nine shirt, with Scott Steele taking his place on the bench.
The visitors shot out of the blocks in the fourth minute, a strong driving maul saw Tom Dunn open the scoring. Ben Spencer converted to make it 0-7.
It only took three minutes for Quins to find their mojo and hit back. Andre Esterhuizen made the initial break before quick hands provided Cadan Murley the perfect opportunity to break free and score his 14th Premiership try of the season. Marcus Smith added the conversion to level the scores.
Bath regathered possession heading into the next play, building phase by phase. Referee Karl Dickson penalised Quins and Spencer stepped up to convert the kick for the 7-10 advantage.
With 20 minutes gone and with the Quins faithful behind them, the home side continued to play fast attacking rugby. Smith was directing the attack with speed and the forwards were playing with tempo, leading to another Esterhuizen break. The South African centre charged through the Bath line to set up Quins' second try. The ball was passed to the edge finding Luke Wallace who ran in to score. Smith converted for the 14-10 lead.
The match then turned on its head. Esterhuizen was yellow carded for a high tackle, before Murley was sin-binned moments later for the deliberate knock-on.
Down to 13 men, Quins did well to scramble in defence but the visitors built attacking phase and eventually scored under the sticks. GJ van Velse the scorer, converted by Spencer, giving Bath the 14-17 lead.
With four minutes left, Quins charged into the Bath half before a magical attack saw Smith deliver a swift pass to Joe Marchant who offloaded back to the fly-half who ran 25 metres to score. Smith added the extras to take his Premiership points tally to 1,000 and give Quins the 21-17 advantage.
Once again Bath responded. Fly-half Orlando Bailey making use of the overlap, chipping a cross kick to Joe Cokanasiga who offloaded to Ollie Lawrence for the try. Spencer converted to give Bath the 21-24 half-time lead.
Fresh from a entertaining half-time performance from Massaoke, the second 40 got underway with Luke Northmore replacing Esterhuizen at inside centre, and Murley returning from his yellow card.
With the sun beaming down on Twickenham, both sides looked to gain early control. Quins stringing neat attacking phase together, forcing several near breaks.
In the 55th minute Louis Lynagh made a strong charge through the middle of Twickenham, he powered to the line but was tackled by the desperate Bath defence.
From the next phase Quins continued to attack. Smith working his way to the line before popping a lovely offload to Gjaltema who scored under the posts. Smith converted the bonus point try for the 28-24 lead.
Moments later and Quins nearly extended their lead. Murley charged up his wing breaking past the Bath defenders. He offloaded to Northmore who tried to get the ball away to Joe Marchant but the pass crashed to ground.
Heading into the final 15 minutes Quins brought on their their Impact Players. Props Fin Baxter and Simon Kerrod entering the play, alongside flanker Jack Kenningham and scrum-half Scott Steele.
Bath however responded quickly. Working their way into the Quins 22 before replacement hooker Niall Annett crossed from close range. Spencer added the extras for the 28-31 lead.
It was only a matter of moments before Bath extended their advantage. Cokanasiga receiving a neat pass to slice through and score under the posts. Spencer converted for the 28-38 advantage.
In typical Quins' style the hosts hit back two minutes later. Smith stepped his way through the Bath defence, before skipper Alex Dombrandt picked up the ball from close range to crash over, reducing the deficit to just three points.
But it wasn't to be as Bath secured the victory with four minutes to go. Centre Max Ojomoh touching down under the posts, converted by Piers Francis for the 35-45 win.
Harlequins' final Gallagher Premiership fixture of the season is away to Leicester Tigers on Saturday, May 6.