Joe Cokanasiga scores two tries to defeat Harlequins, propelling Bath to the top spot in the standings.
Joe Cokanasiga made a strong case for being called up to England’s Six Nations team, drawing focus away from the competition for the No 10 position. As a result, Bath now holds the top spot on the table.
Finn Russell came out ahead in his face-off with Marcus Smith, scoring more points. However, Smith’s missed conversion in the final moments prevented his team from earning a bonus point for a loss. Despite this, Cokanasiga was the standout performer of the match.
The 6-foot-4-inch winger, weighing 17 and a half stone, scored two tries that demonstrated his speed and strength. This may have proven his worth for being reinstated at the Test level, after being left out of the World Cup team.
If Bath has experienced a renewal, then Cokanasiga has undergone a transformation as a player since being dropped by England’s head coach, Steve Borthwick, during the early stages of World Cup training. Despite only playing one warm-up game, the 26-year-old has handled the situation with grace and is now a strong contender for the Six Nations.
The head coach of Bath, Johann van Graan, shared that Borthwick has been closely monitoring his player, who has scored six tries in his last four games. Van Graan also mentioned that there is still room for improvement.
After being excluded from the Welsh Test, he returned with great disappointment for not being able to participate in the World Cup. However, Steve and the England team have provided him with helpful feedback on areas he needed to improve on.
He has made significant improvements in his aerial abilities and I frequently remind him that he is the largest winger I have ever trained.
“I have been lucky to train several skilled and speedy wingers, but his physical stature is a valuable asset that he utilized effectively tonight. In one of the tries, he powered through three defenders to score.”
Russell and Smith displayed their abilities and even entertained the audience with a bit of physicality right before Bath’s Miles Reid secured the bonus-point try.
In the additional time, flanker James Chisholm scored a try for Quins. However, Smith, who had to kick from the left of the posts in order to earn a losing bonus point, missed his conversion and hit the upright instead.
According to Billy Millard, the director of rugby for Harlequins, both players had significant moments during the game. Millard praised Marcus for his tenacity, competitiveness, and ability to cover a lot of ground, which was crucial for the team’s success.
With just two minutes remaining, Russell was the initial player to utilize his skillset as the No 10 by executing a delayed pass to Quins’ Louis Lynagh, causing him to lose his defensive position. This created an opportunity for Ollie Lawrence to break free and ultimately assist Cokanasiga in scoring.
Smith responded with a brilliant solo effort just two minutes later, proving that he could outdo anything his opponent could do. Using a clever dummy and sidestep from a lineout, he completely threw off the defense and easily scored, tying the game at 5-5. Unfortunately, both fly-halves were unable to convert the try.
Bath’s potential try was disallowed when wing Will Muir made a break from his own half and Ben Spencer caught the ball but was tackled before he could continue. Centre Max Ojomoh managed to score, but the try was cancelled due to a knock-on caused by Harlequins’ scrum-half Danny Care diving onto Spencer while offside. Care received a yellow card, but Bath only received a penalty from referee Luke Pearce.
Bath successfully scored a try that they believed had been prevented right after the break. This was achieved as lock Elliott Stooke pushed through from a lineout. Their lead increased by 15 points when Cokanasiga managed to break through three tackles, including one from Smith, securing his second try and marking his sixth in four games.
But Smith’s precise penalty, in driving rain, set up a lineout for the visitors. Hooker Jack Walker was shoved over and Quins were in the game again. But Bath held their pressure and Reid went over from a lineout just after Smith and Russell had been squabbling over the ball in the corner.