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Sunday, 20 March 2016

Worcester too much for an off-form Harlequins

It was a grey, overcast day at the Twickenham Stoop. A strange atmosphere hung in the air. Numbers were down with the big international games also taking place but the stalwart supporters still turned up to cheer on their teams.

Worcester had first touch of the ball and they launched it deep into the home side's 22. Quins made a break down the right wing but wasted the momentum they had built, opting to kick into the waiting arms of the Warriors.

The visitors sent it back and a knock-on handed a scrum to the hosts. This then became a penalty and Quins kicked into touch. They secured their line-out and pushed on, earning a shot at the posts when the visitors were penalised.

Within the opening three minutes Botica had kicked Harlequins into the lead 3-0.

The restart earned Worcester the put-in at the scrum yet the fans in the stand made their voices heard. The scrum was contested and Warriors were forced to retrieve the ball early. They passed wide and earned another scrum 10 metres from the tryline as Quins again knocked-on. This was upgraded to a penalty and after 7 minutes the Warriors' fly-half Heathcote leveled the scores 3-3.

Botica kept the restart tight allowing Quins to chase however the Warriors won the high-ball challenge, box-kicking for territory. Even though the ball ended back in the arms of the home side, their possession was short-lived as they were penalised for not rolling away.

The visitors kicked for a line-out but knocked-on, handing a scrum to the hosts.

Dickson fed the ball and released it to the centres. It was sent out to the wing and back again but very little territory was gained. Another penalty went the way of the Warriors as Quins were penalised for holding on. Heathcote kicked Worcester into the lead for the first time in the game after 12 minutes 3-6.

The restart earned Quins the opportunity to draw level as Botica again lined up the posts. His boot was true and the two teams were equal 6-6 after 15 minutes.

It was a very scrappy opening quarter of an hour for both teams as points were put on the board through errors rather than any outstanding performances. The visitors, however, seemingly more 'alive' in their play than the hosts.

Worcester pushed their way into Quins' territory then grubber-kicked through the defence; Quins earning a scrum on their own 22.

As momentum slowed with several re-set scrums, the home fan-base once again raised their voices. Quins were able to release the ball to Botica who sent it high. Despite competition by Quins, Worcester won the aerial battle and worked their way into the hosts' 22. Quins defended well and Worcester were forced to grab and drive before passing it ball in hand. Olivier slipped through two sloppy missed tackles to fall over the line. Cries of 'pathetic' came from the watching crowd. The Stoop was facing stunned silence until Heathcote pulled the conversion wide of the posts, reducing the damage to hosts: 6-11.

The restart was sent long but the determination seemed lacking for Quins to put in a proper chase.

Worcester earned a penalty despite accusations of a punch to the hosts. A shambolic line-out followed with knock-ons. Quins earned a scrum and moved the ball wide. Horwill attempted an offload but it passed behind Cheesman and straight into touch. The heat was intense inside the Stoop despite the cold weather. Pushing and shoving was creeping more into the game as the pressure was getting to both teams.

A line-out to Worcester in their own half was secured by the visitors who kicked long. Walker secured the ball and attempted to cross the game line. Botica kicked for territory but it was taken well and passed out to the wing. Quins gained possession through a knock-on and the referee played advantage. The ball went into touch still within their half.

A maul was formed; Dickson fed Cheesman who attempted an offload as he was bundled into touch. The assistant referee raised his flag, then lowered it again – too late for the home side whose momentum had stopped, allowing Warriors' van Valze to run unchecked along the wing and across the tryline. It was converted despite jeers from the spectators: 6-18 with a quarter of the first half still to play.

Whatever positive play Quins had beforehand was sapped. They attempted to play with ball in hand but made sloppy mistakes – the Warriors intercepting. Luckily Walker was alert and made an important try-saving tackle.

Play continued with Worcester once again pressuring the hosts however a thumping tackle on Heathcote slowed their pace. Penalty was awarded to Quins who kicked deep into the visitors' territory for a line-out. Quins secured the ball and the forwards went to work before the backs were released. The ball then reached the hands of Sinckler who side-stepped well and made ground. Penalty to the hosts after Warriors went off their feet in the ruck. Botica brought the hosts three points closer to their guests 9-18 after 36 minutes.

The ball was sent long but regathered by Worcester. A knock-on in Quins' 22 handed a scrum to the visitors. The hosts stole possession; Lambert made ground; Dickson recycling the ball to Horwill. Another penalty went the way of the hosts and Botica kicked for a line-out. They recycled the ball well until Botica passed to Wallace – the catch not taken cleanly and the hosts knocked-on, handing possession over.

The referee played advantage and the visitors made it back into Quins' territory before knocking-on themselves. Quins secured the ball from the scrum and almost made it back into opposition territory before once again failing to catch the ball, sending it spilling forward.

The half-time whistle could not come any sooner for the hosts who seemed to lack motivation after so many decisions went against them.

Half-Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 9 – 18 Worcester Warriors

Quins needed to come out fighting – Worcester had double the points of the hosts and a psychological advantage.

Botica kicked long and Worcester returned the ball, sending it into touch at half-way. The hosts secured line-out ball and Botica again kicked long. The ball was returned once more and Chisholm fed the fly-half who made strides down the wing. The visiting defence regrouped and slowed the hosts' advancement but in doing so gave away a penalty for being offside. Botica lined up the posts – a long kick just inside the opposition half. It had the distance but not the accuracy. Still 9-18 after 44 minutes.

Quins came again following the restart but were penalised. Worcester failed to find touch and Botica kicked from deep to alleviate the pressure. Warriors sent the ball high and reclaimed it, giving them a strong attacking platform. Only a fingertip shirt-grab from Sloan prevented Worcester from breaking through the defence.

Slowly they made their way into Quins' 22 but a knock-on 10 metres from the Quins' tryline handed the hosts a lifeline.

The scrum held strong. Quins attempted to run it from deep but were forced to kick long. This simply allowed the visitors to return to the hosts' territory. Quins looked flat and lifeless whereas Warriors had the bit between their teeth.

A good counter ruck stole possession for Quins and Chisholm ran along the wing. His attempted offload went forward handing a scrum to the opposition.

Cheesman off, Lindsay-Hague on for Quins with 29 minutes left.

Another solid scrum and Worcester passed the ball well. Sinckler made his muscle show and won the home side a scrum in their own 22. Easter came away with the ball and passed to Walker who kept possession long enough for the team to separate from the scrum. They made strides into opposition territory, lost the ball before being awarded a penalty which they took quickly. Quins powered into the 22 but the visitors stole possession. They opted to kick long and the hosts were permitted to run again.

A loose pass by Dickson saw Warriors' Biggs collect the ball. Another try-saving tackle by Walker was made but with limited support, Biggs was able to offload.

They continued to press on up the field. Worcester opted for a cross-field kick: Biggs missed it; Olivier collected it. The ball was, however, knocked-on.

Matthews on; Twomey off for Quins: Kirwan off; Betty on for the Warriors. 23 minutes left.

Play resumed with a scrum to Quins in their own 22.

The ball went to the wing and the visiting defence forced Quins to kick. It was well placed by Botica and as the fallbacks scrabbled for the ball, Quins pushed on. They earned a penalty as Warriors were offside. The hosts kicked for a line-out but Warriors stole possession and recycled well, bringing play back to the half-way line.

More replacements for Worcester: Symons on; Mills off with 19 minutes left.

Sinckler received treatment on the field and was then replaced by Collier; as Ruskin off, Leleimalefaga on for Worcester with 18 minutes left.

Scrum to Quins in their own half. Dickson fed the ball; the Quins' scrum was dominant earning the hosts a penalty and fans in the stand started to raise their voices in support. Quins won line-out ball in opposition territory and were awarded a scrum.

Again Dickson fed; the scrum powered through; another penalty to the hosts. Botica lined up the posts. A score here would bring the hosts close enough for a losing bonus point – not what they would have been looking for at the start of the game. The fly-half succeeded: 12 – 18 with 13 minutes left.

Johnston on for Schonert (Worcester).

The restart was gathered by the visitors who made it into Quins' 22 without opposition. Good work from Wallace earned the hosts a penalty – Worcester were holding on to the ball.

Botia placed the kick at the half-way line and Quins came away with the ball. Worcester turned over the ball whilst Luamanu received treatment in the middle of the pitch. They made their way back into Quins' 22.

Penalty to Quins but on this occasion Botica failed to find touch. The visitors then earned a penalty just short of the half-way line.

Luamanu was replaced by James Chisholm with 10 minutes left.

Warriors kicked for a line-out; secured the ball and formed a maul. They attempted a grubber-kick but made no territory. The referee had been playing advantage and so play returned for a shot at the posts.

Their fly-half was successful and the visitors once again pulled 9 points clear – no bonus point for the hosts: 12 – 21 with 7 minutes left.

Following the restart, Quins were awarded a penalty as Warriors failed to roll away. Botica added three points to his tally and the hosts were again within a losing bonus point: 15 – 21 just 6 minutes left.

Worcester retained possession on the restart. They were then awarded the put-in at the scrum within Quins' territory.

In the closing minutes Lowe made way for Marchant.

The Warriors' front pack made good drives up the field. They then slowed their attack and so Ward put the boot in at the ruck to kick the ball out. Warriors retained possession; drove further up the field and with under two minutes left to play, the visitors were awarded another penalty within the host's 22.

At this point most of the Stoop started to leave their seats: anger at the official decisions being made as well as the general lackluster performance of Quins.

Heathcote missed and Quins regained possession, winding down the clock until a knock-on put everyone out of their misery.

A shocking game for Harlequins who missed the opportunity to reenter the top 4 of the premiership table. Worcester, however, continued their impressive form – a three-game winning streak.

With the 6 Nations now over for another year, Harlequins will be welcoming their international players back with open arms.

Full-Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 15 – 21 Worcester Warriors

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

posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 3:54 pm  

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