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RUGBY: Hatley rues last-four loss for Bath
5:42pm Saturday 9th March 2013 in Sport
FORWARDS coach Neal Hatley admitted Bath's 31-23 defeat to Harlequins in the semi finals of the LV= Cup today was "a big blow.''
Winger Tom Williams grabbed two tries while Tom Guest and Karl Dickson also touched down, with fly-half Ben Botica kicking 11 points - converting all four tries before putting the issue beyond doubt with a late penalty.
The visitors replied with tries from lock Francois Louw and full-back Nick Abendanon, with fly-half Tom Heathcote kicking their other 13 points.
Bath, who had targeted the LV= competition as a way into the Heineken Cup, will now return to the Aviva Premiership to try to clinch their place in Europe's premier club competition next season.
Hatley said: "It's a really big blow. This was the quickest route but now we'll have to try and do it through the Premiership.
"Defence let us down today. It was as badly as we have defended all year but credit to Harlequins - they put you under pressure.
"We gave them a 14-point start, which isn't ideal. We kept pegging them back but every time we got within five points they kept going away again. It was very frustrating. We put ourselves in good positions and sometimes discipline let us down."
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea will stick with his kids for next Sunday's final against Sale Sharks or Saracens at Worcester's Sixways stadium.
O'Shea, who named 16 players under the age of 23 in his 23-man squad, was delighted with both their attacking flair and the spirit they showed when the going got tough.
Despite having Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Mike Brown and Joe Marler on RBS 6 Nations duty with England, O'Shea took the decision to once again rest several big names - including Nick Evans, Nick Easter and Ugo Monye.
His faith in the emerging players who had reached the last four was more than repaid.
"I love seeing rugby played like that, but if we don't do a job next week it counts for nothing," he said.
"But you have days like this that you remember as a group of players and this will stand a lot of young guys in massive stead when they look down in future years of where they had to go.
"My God, they were hurting out there but they just kept coming.
"If you play rugby like that, I don't really care if you win or lose. That's the type of energy and the type of ambition we want at this club.
"The guys have done nothing yet in terms of this competition - they're only in the final. But they've worked too hard not to put a similar performance out there next week.
"We'll really go for it and it's exciting to be part of a group of young guys who are there to put a marker down on their more experienced colleagues."
MORE BATH RUGBY NEWS IN FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES
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