We have our semi-finalists – but we so nearly didn’t. The record will state Quins took the bonus-point win that takes them beyond the reach of the chasing pack, but they did their best to keep the door open, Bath registering two bonus points of their own and holding the lead against all odds up to the hour.
Truth be told, Quins could afford to be lax. That pack stopped chasing a while ago. Now the race, bar that for Europe, or the top eight, in which Bath are very much invested, narrows to one for the two home semi-final spots. Bristol are one win away from securing one of those, but Sale and Quins will be lurking for the other, should Exeter slip up in the final couple of rounds.
Quins will quite rightly enjoy their six tries here, Jack Kenningham setting them on their way in the fifth minute. Most of the five that followed were breathless and brilliant. Danny Care scored his latest, running a fine support line as ever, to open up a 12-point lead, the first of two they ended up surrendering.
That was Quins all over. There is a fault line that runs through them. Marcus Smith, superb as ever with ball in hand, missed six kicks at goal, including three simple penalties in the second half that might have sealed the win before Martin Landajo’s try late on.
Bath’s tries were fabulous too. Josh McNally scored the first, rounding Care with outrageous athleticism. Then Ben Spencer put Will Muir over for the first of his two, after a tapped penalty. Rhys Priestland’s penalty, his second of three, edged Bath ahead for the first time on the half-hour.
But if ever a club were made for this sort of assignment, it is Quins. The sun was out, the opposition game, and – glory be – enough adoring fans were in the stands to make some proper noise.
Eddie Jones will be looking for fresh blood and could do worse than inspect the decidedly meaty Luke Northmore, who has a solidity about him, as well as a flair, from which Quins could learn much. After Joe Marchant’s less photogenic try, Northmore, having played a key role in Care’s, scored a beauty of his own, from Smith’s inside ball.
It all meant Quins held a 32-18 lead at the break, but they coughed up 15 points within 12 minutes of the resumption and Bath enjoyed another eight minutes in the lead.
Muir finished his second, a fabulous team try sparked by Tom de Glanville’s break, and Josh Bayliss scored Bath’s fourth, another, even better.
Bayliss’s was scored with Quins down to 14, Marchant shown yellow for an earlier offence, when Max Ojomoh had spilled the ball going over the line. Bath missed another try when Spencer did the same and that was Bath’s chance gone.
A feint and pass by Smith put Alex Dombrandt through and he sent captain Stephan Lewies over to regain his team’s lead.
Quins had steadied themselves, with their scrum taking over for the last quarter, earning two of those penalties for Smith to miss. But his wizardry with ball in hand played its part in one final try, for Martin Landajo at the death.
It summed up Quins all round. As their beleaguered defence coach, Jerry Flannery – of Munster pedigree – accepted. “I found it pretty stressful,” he said.
“I have to accept that Harlequins play rugby a little differently to what I’m used to. It’s unconventional, and I haven’t been involved in a team that plays the way Quins do. That’s not how we played at Munster. The DNA of this club is to attack. We won’t win the league, though, if we don’t tighten up.”
They are brilliant all right, but you wouldn’t want to have to rely on them. That said, they only have to win twice now to become champions.