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Monday, 18 January 2016

Harlequins continue unbeaten record in European Challenge Cup

It's round 5 of the European Rugby Challenge Cup.

The hosts, Harlequins, were hopeful of securing a home quarter-final having already won their previous four games and were the current table-toppers of Pool 3. Standing in their way was Cardiff Blues.

There was an air of excitement as snow had descended earlier in the day. The white stuff had cleared by the time The Stoop was called into action but there was a distinct bite to the air. Gloves, hats and scarves in abundance.

The ever-ready boot of Evans kicked off proceedings and the visitors earned a scrum in the second phase of play as Quins knocked on. It was dealt with quickly and the visitors pushed play into the hosts' half. Quins stole possession, earned a penalty and kicked into touch for a line-out on the opposition 22.

It was taken well; Care passed to Evans who attempted a cross-field kick, hoping to provide Yarde with an opportunity to cross the whitewash. The ball, however, was claimed by the visitors. The hosts earned a 5 metre scrum, upgraded to a penalty which Care took quickly. Cardiff, very aware of the scrum-half's lightening tactics, were ready for him.

He was tackled however Quins were allowed advantage and eventually Buchanan crossed for a try within 5 minutes of kick-off. Evans added the extra two: Harlequins 7 – 0 Cardiff Blues.

The restart was kicked long and Harlequins attempted to run from deep. There were some nervous moments as fast passing made for some close intercept opportunities. Quins, however, kept their heads and it was only a long distance pass which drifted forward that handed possession to Cardiff by means of a scrum.

Quins stole and Brown cleared. There was a good chase for the ball which failed to make it into touch however the hosts earned a penalty in the visitor's half which Evans sent even further up field for another attacking line-out inside the opposition 22. Buchanan, however, threw too long and the ball ended up in the arms of the Blues who made it all he way into Quins' 22 before the hosts got turn-over ball.

Play was halted for a review after Brown was sandwiched in what appeared to be a loose attempt at at tackle. Cardiff were warned; penalty to Quins and play resumed. Evans again placed the ball in the corner for a line-out. Gathered well, they formed a maul. Clifford, performing so well in the number 7 position, drifted from the pack and crossed for a try. Evans converted: Harlequins 14 – 9 Cardiff Blues after 13 minutes.

The visitors got the game underway and earned a scrum in the Harlequins' half. Cardiff sent the ball to the wing then back to the centre as they attempted to split the Quins' defence. They pressured the whitewash but the hosts held firm and were awarded a penalty. A kick into touch and another great take at the line by Matthews put Quins in a commanding position. The home side were, however, penalised for drifting offside, allowing the Blues to bring play back into the hosts's 22. Line-out, maul and the Blues pushed on.

Scrum to Quins who gathered quickly, kicked up field, received the ball back then ran from deep. Roberts made a strong break, offloaded to Brown who passed to Lowe under tackle. The home side worked well together. Play moved from one wing to the other and then it was time for the forwards to grab and drive, wearing down the defence. Care claimed the ball from the ruck and passed to Yarde who slipped through the tackles and over the whitewash, adding to the Quins' tally. Another solid conversion by the fly-half: Harlequins 21 – 0 Cardiff Blues after 23 minutes.

Another restart and another scrum to Cardiff. Quins were putting in the tackles, keeping the opposition pinned outside the 22. After several phases they did eventually break through, however the defence regrouped. They stole the ball, passed to Chisholm who made a break down the wing and chipped through.

A penalty was awarded to Cardiff after Roberts was deemed to have entered the ruck from the side, despite looking at the referee beforehand to check he was legal.

They kicked for a line-out in the Quins' half, gathered the ball, but the hosts stole possession and kicked long, finding touch in Cardiff's 22. The visitors secured possession and box-kicked out to safety handing the hosts a line-out still within Cardiff's territory.

It was thrown short to Robshaw who delivered the ball nicely; Care to Evans who then offloaded to Roberts. They recycled the ball well. It reached the hands of Brown who side-stepped and reached for the line. It went to the TMO (Television Match Official) who deemed it a knock-on rather than a try allowing the visitors some breathing space. Brown, too, had sensed this and was seen taking his frustration out on the turf.

Cardiff reclaimed the ball but great effort from the hosts saw turnover ball. Marler made a break for the line, then Roberts came in at speed. Nobody seemed able to break the defence on this attack. Play was halted to allow for treatment no Cardiff's no. 1 Hobbs, with Davies replacing him on the 33rd minute.

Scrum to Quins. Care fed; the ball was kept in and the scrum-half was tackled as the ball exited. It rolled forward for a Blues advantage however they chose to kick to safety. Brown gathered and launched another attack. They worked the centre, then out to the right wing. Clifford was able to gain ground but defence was quick. The Blues earned a scrum inside their own 22.

Harlequins combined as a pack and pushed on, earning a penalty from the scrum. They kicked for a line-out. Buchanan delivered. A maul was formed however Cardiff stole possession. They kicked long for territory and Chisholm ran it straight back. A penalty was awarded to the home side as Cardiff did not roll away following a tackle. Again, Quins kicked for a line-out. Marler delivered the play to Buchanan. The ball was thrown quickly and in a play straight from the training ground, the ball was sent wide, Evans chipped through for Chisholm to gather and score in the corner.

A tight angle for Evans who still came through for the team: Harlequins 28 – 0 Cardiff Blues. The all important bonus-point heading in to half-time.

Half Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 28 – 0 Cardiff Blues

The visitors started the second half and made it into Quins' 22. They made a break along the right wing and earned a scrum after the hosts knocked-on.

Play was halted following an injury to Marler who was replaced by Lambert within the second minute of the second half.

Lambert was thrown in at the deep end, needing to perform well in the scrum just 5 metres from his own try-line. Cardiff released the ball quickly and despite a desparate tackle from Danny Care, the Blues no 13 crossed for a try and their first points of the game. Patchell converted: Harlequins 28 – 7 Cardiff Blues after 44 minutes.

The restart was kicked long and the visitors attempted to run from deep. They were then forced to kick allowing the waiting backs to charge.

Possession switched sides and the visitors made easy work getting deep into Quins' territory. Penalty to the hosts and Brown kicked long but could not find touch. The Blues came again but the hosts stole and made it back just short of the try-line. Replacement for Blues as Filise left the field; Lewis on after 47 minutes. For Quins, Matthews was replaced by Luamanu.

A line-out went to Cardiff who claimed it well; they passed quickly but the Quins defence was strong, again forcing them to kick. Another replacement for Cardiff as Cook came off for Reed.

Another line-out to Cardiff who secured ball and passed from one wing to the other. An unusual but effective tackle, pulling the shorts down, prevented Blues no 13 Allen from breaking. Yarde made a strong tackle on Lee-Lo however the centre was able to offload and kept momentum going. Another try to the visitors after 15 Dan Fish crossed the whitewash. Unconverted. Harlequins 28 – 12 Cardiff Blues after 50 minutes.

Who knows what was said to Cardiff at half-time but they came into the second half fighting. It was time for some drastic action and Harlequins made quadruple substitutions.

Easter (injured), Buchanan, Collier, and Care made way for Gray, Sinckler, Wallace, and Dickson.

Quins pushed forward. James Down had to leave the field for Cardiff – a shake of the head trying more to work out planet he was on rather than an act of refusal to leave. Down had to lean on his colleagues just to stay on his feet. Cook, who had moments earlier been replaced, rejoined the field so the no.5 could have his head injury assessment.

Play continued with a scrum to Harlequins in the opposition half. The hosts heaved well and earned a penalty.

Evans opted for the posts and added another three points: Harlequins 31 – 12 Cardiff Blues after 55 minutes. (More replacements for the Blues as Anscombe made his well anticipate return from injury in place of Scully).

The restart was kicked long; Quins gathered, box-kicked from the ruck. The Blues grubber kicked back into touch handing a line-out to Quins in their own 22.

They threw short to Lambert whose feet did not leave the ground. Another box-kick which Cardiff gathered but the chase from Quins was strong and they turned over the ball. Strides were made along the far wing until a scrum was awarded to Cardiff after the ball simply slipped from Brown's fingers.

Quins fought well in the scrum forcing Cardiff to act quicker than clearly they had wanted to.

However a penalty was awarded to the visitors as Quins did not roll away having tackled a player. Their fly-half kicked into touch for a line-out inside the hosts' 22.

They gathered and sent the ball wide. It then worked its way back into the hands of Lee-Lo who slid over the line despite a tackle from Dickson. The referee went to the TMO and replays showed he knocked on. (Dacey off, Ethan Lewis on for Cardiff).

Scrum to Quins 5 metres from their try-line. Quick work from the visitors applied pressure on the home side and they earned themselves a scrum after forcing the hosts to take the ball over the line themselves to touch down.

The ball was fed and released; Roberts made a strong tackle to end the first attack. Play was sent to the wing, then back to the centre. The forwards attempted to grab and drive before releasing the backs once more.

Advantage to Cardiff; Patchell attempted to score in the corner but Yarde unceremoniously forced him into touch. Play returned to the original infingement for not rolling away. Scrum to Cardiff.

The ball was fed and released quickly. Cardiff were not giving up but neither were the Quins' defence. The hosts were penalised for offside and Evans left the field in place of Botica after 66 minutes.

Cardiff kicked for a line-out and scrum half Williams crossed for a try; converted. Harlequins 31 – 19 Cardiff Blues with 13 minutes remaining.

The restart was again kicked long; the Blues sent it back and Yarde was penalised for holding on. Cardiff found touch in the hosts half for a line-out. They gathered and attempted to break through. They made strides on the far wing then sent it to the other wing, accidentally finding touch.

This handed a line-out to the hosts. Cardiff stole and made gains once more up the field. Again, they attacked the left wing and Brown chased but failed to make the tackle in time. Fish crossed the whitewash for an important bonus-point. Converted. Harlequins 31 – 26 Cardiff Blues with 8 minutes remaining.

Fans on both sides raised their voices as the hosts knocked-on handing a scrum to Cardiff inside the visitor's half. Quins challenged but were penalised. The visitors found touch on the half-way line. Quins stole line-out ball; grab and drove before Botica opted to kick. Cardiff returned long and chased, putting pressure on the hosts' back line. Botica again received the ball and sent it high. Cardiff ran it back but knocked-on. Sinckler received treatment on the ground as the team worked out their tactics.

The visitors piled the pressure on but Quins still came away with the ball. They took play into the 22. It was momentarily halted as officials checked a tackle on Lambert but then play was resumed with a scrum to the hosts.

They earned a penalty and Botica went for the posts. Another three points on the board brought a conclusion to the game.

Full Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 34 – 26 Cardiff Blues

Attendance: 12,912

A strong first-half from Harlequins; spirited fight back by Cardiff Blues in the second. The hosts came away with another bonus-point win, securing a home quarter-final.

posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 6:00 am  

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