RUGBY: Ford gutted by Bath's play-off near-miss

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Bath Rugby's Ollie Devoto (right) is tackled by Harlequins' Maurie Fa'asavalu Bath Rugby's Ollie Devoto (right) is tackled by Harlequins' Maurie Fa'asavalu

HEAD coach Mike Ford admits dropping out of the Aviva Premiership top four on the last day of the season is a bitter pill to swallow after Bath lost 19-16 to Harlequins at the Stoop.

Bath's defeat means they finish the season fifth in the table, ten points ahead of sixth-placed Sale.

Quins' hopes of finishing in the top four seemed all but over a month ago but a nail-biting win saw Conor O'Shea's side jump above their opponents into fourth on the final day of the regular season.

Despite George Ford's brilliant solo score in the first half, Mike Brown's try and four Nick Evans penalties were enough to seal a fifth consecutive victory for Quins, who have also beaten Exeter, Leicester, Sale and London Irish in a remarkable end-of-season run.

"I've never been as disappointed in my life since being involved in the game," Ford said.

"I don't want any sympathy, we should have got to the top four today and we didn't.

"Is it because the team is young? No, the team is good enough to do it, we should have done it.

"Maybe in July I might come round a little bit and think it's been a good season.

"The main thing for us is we're only a year into this group and the potential is enormous, absolutely enormous."

O'Shea has hailed Harlequins' mental strength in securing a play-off spot and believes his side can upset the odds again in the semi-final against title favourites Saracens.

"There was a huge amount of tension and I'm incredibly proud of the belief within that group," O'Shea said after the match.

"We've won 13 out of our last 17, we've won our last five in a row, we've had to scrape wins but mental strength is a huge thing.

"It doesn't happen by accident, you don't just turn one-point wins and two-point wins your way, it comes from a huge belief in each other.

"We'll give it a good crack against Saracens, we'll play our way and if it isn't good enough I won't change the way I feel about what this group has done and what it will go on to do."

Quins go to Allianz Park as underdogs after Saracens finished the season nine points clear at the top of the table and 20 points ahead of their play-off opponents.

Sarries won 39-17 when the two teams met at Wembley in March but O'Shea insists Quins know how to hurt the Men in Black.

"We'll be completely written off, I'm pretty comfortable with that - you can write this team off any day," O'Shea said.

"Looking back at the Wembley game, we weren't far off and we had a few key players who weren't playing that day who are back in.

"If you look at the game in general there wasn't a huge amount between the sides.

"You might laugh at that but I came away from that game confident we can do something if we play them again.

"The blueprint is there, we know what to do - we have to go and execute it and take our opportunities."

MORE BATH RUGBY NEWS & REACTION AT WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT AND IN FRIDAY'S WILTSHIRE TIMES

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