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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Robshaw and Marler return to winning ways at the Twickenham Stoop

Today The Stoop in Twickenham treated fans of rugby union to a clash of giants as Harlequins played host to Leicester Tigers in round 13 of the English Premiership. The return of the Quins' captain Joe Marler and no. 7 Chris Robshaw gave the team - and their fans - a boost.

The rain had been kept at bay and a hint of blue skies could be seen breaking through what had been up to that point an overcast day. The atmosphere was electric at the sell-out stadium and a standing ovation greeted Nick Easter on his 250th professional appearance.

Owen Williams started proceedings for the Tigers who were wearing their orange kit for this clash. After some feelers were kicked round to settle the game the visitors earned a lineout in the host's half. Their fast pace made easy work of the defence and within 3 minutes the Tigers were awarded a penalty: Williams splitting the posts giving the visitors an early lead 0-3.

The restart was kicked long and despite pressure from the forwards Tait was able to gather and kick into touch. Following a poor lineout by Quins, the Tigers had the put-in at the scrum. They fed back and kicked - an easy catch for Brown who sent the ball back into the visitor's half.

The Tigers, however, looked menacing and quick hands along with side-stepping feet allowed them to once again slice through the home defence. Their progress was halted as a cross-fied kick ended up in touch.

Despite forward momentum from Quins the ball was handed back to the Tigers and this time their lineout was misfiring - a scrum was awarded to Quins after the ball was not thrown straight. Yet more misery waited for the home side as they were penalised for collapsing the scrum. Williams again went for the posts and doubled the lead after 10 minutes: 0-6.

The restart was kicked short and wide this time allowing Yarde to challenge. This pressure handed a penalty to Quins who kicked for a line-out just 5 metres out. Although Tigers stole the ball, Quins were soon back on the front foot after the visitors opted to kick long downfield. The homeside earned a shot at the posts and finally Quins were on the scoreboard through the boot of Botica: 3-6 after 14 minutes.

Another penalty was awarded to Quins following the restart after Tigers slowed down play by failing to allow the ball out of the ruck. A strong lineout from the home side and they sent the ball from one wing to the other. Despite strong tackles by Kitchener on Sinckler, the Quins no. 3 held the ball firm. Play eventually came to a stop after foul play by the home side.

Crane crossed the half-way line for the Tigers and sent the ball out to the wing where they put together some great attacking play. They kicked for a chase and Quins almost fell into the trap of thinking the ball was going into the deadzone. Instead it bounced favourably for Tigers but Brown was on hand to prevent a try; Yarde instead landing on the ball.

A quarter of the game gone and Quins seemed to be rattled. Another penalty for Williams and a brave Tom Youngs was used to hold the ball in place. The visiotrs extended their lead: 3-9.

Clifford has been putting in a great performance for the home side in recent games and today was no different, crossing the game line and releasing the ball. Quins earned another penalty following their strength in a maul and Botica kicked for a lineout on the Tigers' 22.

A great take by Robson and the ball was sent wide to Brown. Care managed to retrieve the ball from the ruck and after passing it wide, the ball was returned to him in the form of a superb offload by Easter. Care slipped through Leicester's defence and made his way across the line for the first try of the game after 23 minutes. Botica added the conversion and for the first time this game Harlequins found themselves in the lead: 10-9.

Quins had fire in their belly at the restart and made their way into the visitor's half with relative ease. They played with belief. Unfortunately the ball was knocked-on whilst releasing it from the ruck, ending Quins' forward momentum and handing play back to the Tigers.

Leicester's captain Ben Youngs had a talking to from the referee as Quins were awarded a penalty. They opted for a lineout in Tigers' 22. It was not easy but the home side retained possession. Brown, however, could not cleanly catch the ball passed to him and he knocked on. Tigers were then awarded a penalty following the scrum.

The visitors came again but the Quins defence was not letting them slip through. Robson was inches away from intercepting a pass. Leicester put on a spurt and came within 5 metres of the tryline but they were brought down and the ball stolen. Brown and Care managed to break but Care was tackled just as he kicked for a chase.

There was concern from the stands an Monye had to be replaced by Williams after 32 minutes - the number 11 limping from the field. A period of football ensued to settle play again and Tigers again came strong but a rushed offload ended up in the arms of Clifford.

A lineout to Quins and they managed to keep possession although their passing had slowed and was becoming sloppy. Tigers got turn-over ball and they slowly made progression up the field. Play was halted for a chat with the TMO (Television Match Official) but quickly resumed with a lineout for Quins in their half. This was upgraded to a penalty after interference by the visitors.

Quins placed a kick just outside the Tigers' 22 for a lineout. Robshaw crossed the gameline, then Robson. Play once again fell flat as the clock ticked down to half-time. Tigers' failed to roll away after tackling and Care took the penalty quickly. The ball reached the hands of Clifford who crossed the tryline. On this occasion Botica pushed the conversison wide.

Harlequins went into the half-time break with a breathing space.

Half Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 15 - 9 Leicester Tigers

Botica kicked play off in the second half. Yarde was able to catch the ball keeping possession with the home side. A great offload allowed Hopper to penetrate the defence but a lapse in concentration meant the ball was passed short and subsequently knocked on. The referee stopped play to see whether there was any foul play leading up the tackle on Sinckler. There was none and so play resumed with a scrum to Leicester Tigers inside their own 22.

The referee addressed both sides after the scrum collapsed for a third time. Youngs fed the ball, retrieved it and kicked into the arms of Brown. In an amazing period of play Yarde was passed the ball and he slipped through the defence and crossed the tryline almost unopposed. The referee checked there had been no obstruction to allow him to slip through almost unnoticed and the try was awarded - Botica adding the conversion. Harlequins 22 - 9 Leicester Tigers with 33 minutes remaining.

Tigers attempted to bowl over their opponents but this ended up with Harlequins being awarded the put-in at the scrum. The home side continued to pressure the visitors and they earned a lineout after Botica kicked high for a chase - Tigers retrieving but ending up in touch.

A rolling maul formed and this time Care attempted a cross-field kick. It was caught and the mark was called however advantage was being played. Botica had a shot between the posts and made Tigers' pay for their indiscipline: 25-9 with 29 minutes remaining.

No sooner had play resumed than Quins handed a penalty to the visitors. Despite the gap building between the two teams, they opted for the posts. The boot of Williams was once again successful and the score was 25-12 with 27 minutes still to play.

The restart ball was kicked long but an unforced error saw Kitchener knock-on as the Tigers attempted to break. Scrum to Quins which was upgraded to a penalty. On this occasion Botica pushed it wide.

Slowly but steadily Quins made their way up the field and Botica had another opportunity to split the posts with 22 minutes remaining. The stadium fell silent as he made his preparations but it was again kicked wide.

The visitors had possession but knocked on whilst being tackled. As the scrum was awarded to Quins the fans started to chant around the Twickenham Stoop. Care so nearly able to retrieve the ball however the scrum was turned and it was now Leicester who had the put-in. The visitors earned a penalty and this time kicked for a line-out just outside the Quins' 22. Sinckler was replaced by Collier for the last 18 minutes.

The Tigers' lineout was successful but Quins soon stole the ball. Botica kicked long for the visitors' Thompstone to chase, passing to Tait to clear. Following replacements Tigers had the scrum which was upgraded to a penalty. Williams again kicked for a lineout outside the home side 22.

They threw to the end of the line and managed to break the Quins' defence. They then earned a penalty and kicked for the corner. Gray came off for Buchanan in the last 15 minutes.

Tigers retained lineout ball and formed a maul. A cheer erupted in the stands as Quins were awarded the penalty.
Botica kicked for a lineout still inside their own half. Leicester stole possession and powered their way up the field. They passed wide and tackles were missed. Luckily resilience paid off and Care got turnover ball in a ruck. The ball was sent into the opposition half and Tigers had the throw-in at the lineout.
They retained possession and tried to break. The home side's defence remained strong forcing the Tigers to kick. Brown retrieved and kicked back. Quins eventually earned a penalty after the visitors held onto the ball.

Quins kicked for the corner but Tigers retrieved and kicked quickly. Eventually play settled in the visitors' half. Quick work from Robshaw as he wrapped himself around Harrison who had found himself isolated. A scrum was awarded to Quins. Botica was replaced by Swiel after feeling a pull in his leg. 10 minutes remained.

Another reset scrum after Tigers pushed early. Quins opted to grab and drive after freeing the ball. It reached Brown who crossed the gameline but some strong tackles by the visitors earned them a penalty. They kicked for a lineout just outside the home side 22. Tigers secured the ball and attempted to break. On occasions they slipped through but could never make much progress. They sent the ball back to build their charge once again but Quins earned a scrum.

Just 5 minutes left and Captain Marler left the field to a standing ovation - Marfo the blood replacement.

Quins secured the ball and kicked long, allowing Tigers to bring the challenge to them. Play was kept in the visitors' half and through another unforced error, Leicester sent the ball into touch. Robson was replaced by Twomey; Trayfoot on for Clifford.

A forward pass handed a scrum to Leicester with just 3 minutes remaining. It was upgraded to a penalty but they could only find touch just within Quins' half. During the play that followed, advantage was awarded to Harlequins and they kicked for a lineout. Unfortunately they knocked-on. Leicester failed to punish them, knocking-on themselves. Harlequins found themselves with one final opportunity to get the fourth try and a bonus point. As the scrum was reset the clock counted down.

Steady hands and the home side powered their way through. The ball was sent out to Brown who broke through a tiring defence and then back to Swiel who had only recently come on as a replacement. Swiel crossed for the all important bonus point try and converted it.

Full Time: Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester Tigers

Nick Easter was named Man of the Match on his 250th appearance in front of 14,800 spectators.

A much better performance from Harlequins. At the Big Game 7 they showed what they were capable of against Northampton Saints but fell short of a win. Last week they secured a bonus point win away to London Welsh. Today it all came together - not only a bonus-point win but a performance to match with team morale helped by the return of Robshaw and Marler.

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

The Twickenham-based team move up to seventh in the table and find themselves just two points behind a play-off place. The rest of the season looks to be an exciting time as the English premiership table is so tight in the middle.

Next week Harlequins welcome Wasps to The Stoop in the European Champions Cup.
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 9:30 pm  

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