Booth hails 'rebirth' of Bath Rugby after victory over Harlequins
MATCH REPORT: Bath Rugby 21 Harlequins 18
By Ben Baker
Toby Booth believes Bath’s days of flattering to deceive could be well behind them as they got one over reigning Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins on Friday night.
The Rec was spoilt for most of the 1990s as Bath conquered all those who dared get in their way, not just in English rugby but on the European stage too – lifting the Heineken Cup in 1998.
But since the turn of the century Bath’s trophy cabinet has been opened just once more, for a European Challenge Cup success four years ago.
However, the Rec faithful were left believing once again when the final whistle blew on Friday, Stephen Donald getting the better of a kicking battle with fellow New Zealander Nick Evans to lift Bath to a memorable 21-18 victory over the league leaders.
And Booth insists we could well be witnessing the resurrection of Bath as a force once again in the Premiership after pushing Quins aside, although he admits more will be known after a trip to tame Leicester Tigers this weekend.
"This is the rebirth of the new Bath and what we are trying to get to,” he said.
"That should be the standard every week. Part of the evolution of this team is understanding that.
“We're down at Welford Road next week against Leicester, the side that everyone aspires to be. We are going to be tested even further.
"Everyone knows what a good side Leicester are – they're an outstanding side, well coached, well drilled.
“We are going to have to produce things like we did against Quins to give ourselves the best opportunity."
Quins began brightly at the Rec and Evans kicked his side ahead but Donald levelled shortly after.
Centre Matt Banahan then charged down Quins full-back Tom Williams’ quick and a try looked certain, however his pass was spilled by midfield partner Semesa Rokoduguni on his Premiership debut and the chance had gone.
And the Fijian was made to pay for his mishandling as Evans kicked Harlequins back in front, although Donald replied with two penalties of his own to give the hosts the narrow lead at half-time.
The second half followed a familiar pattern and every time Evans levelled, Donald responded and was able to put his side 21-15 up with just seven minutes left.
Evans pulled one back but Bath stood firm in the closing stages, much to the annoyance of Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea.
"I definitely wouldn't say it was a case of us not wanting it enough," said O'Shea. "It was a kicking game and we gave away too many free-kicks and penalties in kickable areas.
"It's a battle out of the war which is 22 matches across the season - that's the nature of the Premiership.
"It was always going to be a one-score game and we just gave away too much in the wrong areas.
"It's not a concern that we've not scored tries in the last two matches, we've scored 26 tries from our first eight games. I think there are other aspects of our game that I will worry about more."
Bath Rugby: Abendanon; Eastmond, Rokoduguni, Banahan, Biggs; Donald, Claassens; Beech (Cotter 77), Mears (Sharman 77), Perenise; Hooper (capt), Attwood (Day 50); Ovens, Mercer, Taylor. Replacements not used: Palma-Newport, Caldwell, Skuse, McMillan, Cuthbert.
Scorers: Pens – Donald 7.
Harlequins: Williams; Monye (Stegman 49), Hopper, Turner-Hall, Smith; Evans, Dickson; Lambert, Gray (Buchanan 69), Collier (Sinckler 71),; Kohn, Robson; Guest (Trayfoot 66), Wallace, Easter (capt). Replacements not used: Marfo, Browne, Burns, Clegg.
Scorers: Pens – Evans 6.
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