For English rugby it was all about the bigger picture. Just don’t expect Harlequins to see it that way.
The return of paying spectators for the first time since March was as joyful a sight for the cash-strapped Premiership as it was imperative.
But a slick performance off the pitch in catering for a 3,500-strong socially distanced crowd was let down by Quins’ failure to show up on it.
“It was a day of two halves,” admitted chief executive Laurie Dalrymple wistfully.
Team boss Paul Gustard agreed: “It was great to see a crowd back, just sad we could not give them a performance.”
It had started so well for the Londoners, roared onto the field by their rugby-starved fans. Straight onto the front foot and quickly onto the scoreboard.
The pack drove deep into Bath’s 22 and Danny Care chipped delicately for Joe Marchant to win the aerial challenge and score.
But that was as good as it got for Paul Gustard’s side, as Bath regrouped magnificently to snuff out Quins’ play-off hopes whilst keeping theirs very much alive.
The home side had no answer to the control of Rhys Priestland and the finishing of Ruaridh McConnochie in front of watching England boss Eddie Jones.
McConnochie was Jones’ wild card pick at last year’s World Cup and having started only one game in Japan he took this chance emphatically to remind the boss that he is still around.
Midway through the first half Quins failed to field a restart, the big winger pounced on the loose ball, used his strength to hold off a defender and finish spectacularly in the corner.
Bath grew in stature with the score and Elliot Stooke bagged a second soon after before McConnochie, a sevens Olympic silver medalist in 2016, settled the issue.
This time Cam Redpath was the architect, unpicking the home defence with a lovely pass out of the tackle for McConnochie to romp home from 30m.
Quins’ only response was a 50m lineout ‘pass’ by Marchant that NFL ace Tom Brady would have been proud of. But by then the cause was lost.
Pre-match Gustard had issued a “call to arms”, urging the fans to be “the shield to our sword and the voice that carries us home”.
It was wishful thinking as Bath easily helped themselves to a bonus point with Lewis Boyce scoring against his former club.
There was no escape for the crowd from a game they had waited so long for, forced by Covid restrictions to stay in their designated seats until the very end.
QUINS – Tries: Marchant, Landajo, Lang. Cons: Herron 2, Lang. Pens: Herron 2.
BATH – Tries: McConnochie 2, Stooke, Boyce. Cons: Priestland 3. Pens: Priestland 5.