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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Harlequins are back to winning ways at the Twickenham Stoop

The sun was shining brightly over the Twickenham Stoop. Expectation was high with the return of Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown back in the Harlequins squad following England duty. Today they faced 10th placed London Irish in a must-win game if Quins' were to have any chance of making the playoffs this season.

Harlequins' Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea spoke with Radio Jackie's Natalie Osborne after the game:


Match Report:

The home side kicked off and gathered but were penalised for holding on, allowing the Exiles to kick for a lineout deep in Quins territory. They were forced to defend their line early on. However a mistake by the visitors allowed the home side to kick into touch near the half way line. There was solid work by Quins pushing up the field but when Evans' attempt at a kick through to break their defence was blocked, momentum was lost.

The visitors powered up the field but a knock on handed the scrum to Quins who then earned a penalty. Evans failed to find touch and London Irish came again. Quins forced another knock on from the Exiles and dominated in the scrum - Evans finding touch this time in the visitor's 22. Slowly the home side gained ground. The supporters in the Stoop held their breath as Evans once again attempted a chip over the London Irish defence. This time it worked and the no.10 caught the ball, crossed the line and converted his own try. 14 minutes in and Quins were 7-0 up.

London Irish restarted the game and although Quins caught the ball, momentum went with the visitors after Harlequins were penalised in the ruck. It was almost a disaster for the home side after they fumbled on their own line however they still managed to clear the ball. The Exiles came again but Quins were able to steal possession. It only lasted a moment as the home side were penalised for coming in from the side. Further misery for Quins who were then penalised for bringing down the maul, although subsequent replays tended to indicated a London Irish player had lost his footing and, on falling to the ground, tripped the rest of the maul.

London Irish attacked again but Quins were patient - an attempted offload by the visitors went forward, handing the scrum to Quins. The home side were dominating the scrum today and the clearance kick paved the way for a lineout in the visitor's half. A decision by the referee to give a penalty to London Irish did not go down well with the supporters in the stands and when the whistle blew again in quick succession, the visitors opted for a kick between the posts, opening their scorecard after 25 minutes.

The restart was kicked long but a good chase kept London Irish pinned down. Harlequins earned a lineout in the visitors half. Play was halted briefly after a suspected neck injury but thankfully no one was hurt and play resumed with a scrum to Quins in front of the posts. A maul formed but failed to progress, handing play to the Exiles. Their possesion did not last long as they were deemed to have knocked on. A Quins' scrum turned into a penalty after London Irish were offside. Evans went for the posts and added another three points, leaving the Exiles requiring a converted try to equalise.

Another long restart and after an attempted kick by Quins failed to make any ground, the visitors pressed again, only to be penalised and marched back another 10 metres for dissent. London Irish, however, stole the lineout and wasted possession, kicking so far up the field Quins were able to touch behind their own line. Unfortunately on the restart the home side were penalised allowing the visitors to double their score.

The first half was strewn with penalties - some deserved, some questionable. Final play of this half went to a London Irish penalty, bringing them within a point of the home side.

Half Time: Harlequins 10-9 London Irish

The second half started with passion from Quins who made good movement up the field. A kick by Care started a race with Brown only just beaten to the chase by London Irish who were forced to gather on their own line. The visitors should have taken the lead after Harlequins were penalised for not rolling away but the penalty was pulled wide of the posts.

London Irish came again but were stopped short of the try line. It was the turn of Quins to press, gaining ground through Easter and Smith. The home side then kicked for a lineout deep in the visitors' territory following a penalty. The Exiles went down to 14 men after Yarde was shown a yellow card for tackling a player without the ball. Evans added three points.

The restart was long but collected well by Quins. An attempted kick was partially blocked, giving London Irish an attacking platform. Quins were then penalised for interference but a lineout to the visitors in the Quins' 22 was stolen by the home side. They earned a scrum, followed by a penalty and Evans kicked long for a lineout. It looked promising for the home side after retaining posession however they were penalised when their maul made little ground.  London Irish attempted to kick to safety once play resumed but Quins charged it down - unfortunately the ball went into touch before anyone could gather for a try.

Quins again pushed up the field working strongly as a team but a knock on handed possession to London Irish. They kicked following a scrum and Brown collected. Keeping ball in hand he headed back up the field. An unfortunate interference by the referee paused play but the scrum was awarded to Quins who were looking strong. The Exiles were not going to give in and stole possession. Quins, not to be outdone, regained the ball in the break down, progressed up the field and Care kicked to start another race. The visitors again got back to their line in time to collect and clear.

The home side, however, were soon awarded a penalty and they chose to kick for a lineout deep within the London Irish 22. Quins kept possession and formed a maul. It was brought down and in the ensuing penalty Quins again opted for an attacking lineout. They gathered, formed another maul, then Care sent it wide to Smith who crossed for a try. Evans missed the conversion but they were now double the Exiles' score. Brown was the next to score for the home side after Quins dominated another scrum and sent the ball wide.

Determined to get the all-important fourth try, Harlequins continued to play with ball in hand. They earned a penalty which Care took quickly. The clock ticked over to 80 minutes and although the home side were determined to keep the ball alive, the next infringement was made by Quins, ending the game.

Full Time: Harlequins 23 - 9 London Irish

Harlequins are back to winning ways but it was a tough game with more improvement required.
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 9:33 pm  

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