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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Harlequins power into European Challenge Cup Final


The rain pelted down for the late kick-off Friday night in south west London but it did not dampen the spirits of the both the home and visiting support.

A place in the final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup was the prize that awaited the victor.

Grenoble kicked off proceedings. Within two minutes Harlequins had an attacking line-out just outside the opposition 22. The visitors stole possession and kicked it away, back into the waiting arms of the host's fallback.

Harlequins made strides back but a knock-on handed a scrum to Grenoble. The strength of the Quins' set piece earned the hosts a free kick, and they opted for another scrum. Once again their domination shone through and Quins earned a penalty.

Captain Danny Care signalled to the posts and Botica kicked the first points of the game: Harlequins 3 – 0 Grenoble after 6 minutes.

A long kick restarted play then an aerial battle ensued until Brown gathered the high ball and ran to cheers from the stands.

An attempted cross-field kick found its way into the arms of Grenoble despite a strong chase by Visser. Turnover ball was achieved by the hosts which in turn earned them a penalty. After 20 minutes Grenoble found themselves forced into a substitution as Hunt underwent a head injury assessment.

Quins Hooker Joe Gray found his mark in the line-out. The hosts recycled the ball well despite strong challenges by Grenoble at the break-down. An opening appeared on the left wing and both Visser and Wallace were calling for the ball. Botica made his long pass count.

Visser received the ball then passed to the steam-train that was Jamie Roberts whose speed left the defence standing in their tracks. It was not the most elegant of swallow-dives however the inside centre scored the first try of the game. Botica added the conversion: Harlequins 10 – 0 Grenoble 12 minutes gone.

The restart was gathered well by the hosts and fancy footwork from Botica brought Quins out of their own 22 before a knock-on under tackle handed a scrum to Grenoble.

The visitors then earned a penalty and opted for the posts, Wisniewski opening their points tally: Harlequins 10 – 3 Grenoble after 15 minutes.

Botica kicked the restart high allowing his teammates to challenge for the ball. They were successful, knocking it backwards to keep possession. The referee John Lacey was playing advantage and Care 'dropped' the ball, allowing another shot between the uprights.

Three minutes after Grenoble put points on the board the boot of Botica gave Quins another 3 points: Harlequins 13 – 3 Grenoble.

The visitors earned a line-out in the host's half shortly after the restart. Quins stole the ball in the set-piece and formed a maul. They were gaining ground and earned a penalty after the maul collapsed. Botica kicked long for a line-out inside Grenoble's 22.

It was well taken, another maul formed and they tried to break. Frantic defence by Grenoble forced the Quins' forwards to grab and drive.

A loose pass was kicked away by the visitors and a chase ensued to reclaim the ball: Danny Care made it back, toppling in the process. He dusted himself off before box-kicking into touch back inside the visitor's half.

Grenoble took the line-out quickly but used the wrong ball. Play was brought back for their second attempt however it was not thrown straight. Quins had the put-in at the scrum.

As it started to progress forward, the visitors put in a fight and were able to dislodge the ball from Easter's careful care. The Number 8 attempted to regather it however Botica was on-hand to gather and grubber-kick. Visser collected the ball and made strides along the wing before being tackled into touch.

Grenoble won their line-out and kicked long into the waiting arms of Brown who made strides out of his 22. The visitors, however, earned a penalty and doubled their score: Harlequins 13 – 6 Grenoble after 26 minutes.

Clearly work had been done on the training-pitch as Quins once again reclaimed their own restart. They recycled well despite the strong pressure from the visitors. The hosts were pushed back into their own half at one point before moving forward again.

Although Quins lost the ball in an attempt to get it to Visser, it was not long before Grenoble kicked possession away, back to Brown who placed the ball into touch.

Grenoble took a quick line-out and made strides towards the try-line. Chants of 'Harlequins' resonated around The Stoop in support of the hosts who mounted a strong defence. They turned over the ball and kicked for a chase, the ball bobbing into touch just inside their own half.

The visitors secured line-out ball, formed a maul and attempted to break. Their left wing Dupont ran along the touch-line Scrum to Quins as the ball was knocked-on.

Possession changed hands several times and Quins found themselves under pressure with a defensive line-out. They managed to win their set-piece and box-kicked for territory. This allowed Grenoble to come again.

The hosts were able to turn over the ball and kicked high for a chase. The visiting fallback Alpon gathered and gained ground. A knock-on handed a scrum to Quins on the half-way line. Care fed the ball, it was hooked back and kicked into touch to end the first half.

Half Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 13 – 6 Grenoble

The second half got underway from the boot of Botica. He opted to kick long. A good chase from Wallace could not prevent Grenoble claiming the ball. They kicked it back and Quins were awarded a free kick. The fly-half sent it into touch for a line-out just outside the visitor's 22.

Quins retained possession and kept their passing tight. Yarde attempted to break through; Brown was tackled and pushed backwards but was still able to offload. This was a nervy moment for The Stoop faithful however Quins pushed on.

They box-kicked and Grenoble knocked-on whilst trying to gather the high-ball. Advantage was played and the hosts found touch for another line-out in Grenoble's 22.

They recycled the ball well and grubber-kicked short of the try-line. Grenoble collected but Visser was able to bring down the ball-carrier behind the line. The visitors then cleared, Brown received the ball and kicked long.

Grenoble attempted to run it out from deep and were eventually forced to box-kick. Botica returned the favour as another aerial battle ensued.

Yarde decided to run with ball in hand. A knock-on handed a scrum to Grenoble however the strength of Quins once again powered through and Robshaw was able to land on the ball, injuring himself in the process.

The ball was then kicked on for a chase but it ran into touch in the 22. The visitors were able to retain the line-out ball and cleared their lines.

Robshaw was once again in the thick of the action going forward, giving the home side momentum. Grenoble secured a turnover but Danny Care was on hand to kick a loose pass through the visitors and into touch.

A roar erupted from The Stoop as Nick Evans returned to the pitch after recovery from a broken leg, replacing Botica with 30 minutes left to play.

Play resumed with a scrum to Quins in the opposition 22. Suddenly a chorus of 'Come On You Quins' resonated: the fans singing as one once more.

Care to Roberts, they pushed to the 5 metre line. The forwards opted to grab and drive until the ball went back for Evans. Seeing an opportunity, the fly-half executed a well-weighted grubber kick through the defence and over the try-line.

On his return Evans crossed the line and added the downward pressure. He converted his own try in what could only be a dream return 4 minutes from coming on the pitch: Harlequins 20 – 6 Grenoble.

It was a long restart. Quins gathered and Danny Care box-kicked. Grenoble came again. Staunch defence as Lowe and Twomey attempted to prevent the player from going to ground. Despite their efforts, they were unsuccessful on this occasion.

Grenoble were awarded a penalty and kicked for a line-out as Sinckler came on in replacement of Jones after 56 minutes.

The visitors secured the ball and set off a driving maul which made its way over the half-way line. Advantage was being played and so they attempted to break but lost possession. Play returned to the scene of the crime for a line-out inside Quins' 22.

Grenoble gathered and formed another maul. Their scrum-half McLeod ran with ball in hand. Frantic and successful defence by the hosts, winning turnover ball and kicking long.

Clifford came on in place of Easter with a quarter of the game left to play.

A scrum to Quins was then upgraded to a penalty after Grenoble were penalised for failing to hit straight. Evans had the opportunity to increase the host's lead however he pulled the ball wide of the posts.

The restart was gathered well by Quins. They recycled the ball from one wing to the other. Evans attempted a drop-goal but it went wide. No harm done as advantage was being played.

The fly-half had an opportunity to redeem his earlier miss and this time his boot held true: Harlequins 23 – 6 Grenoble after 66 minutes.

Another replacement for Quins as Matthews came on for Twomey.

Scrum to the hosts and they put on another strong performance earning themselves a penalty. Evans, out of practice, sliced the ball into touch rather than neatly placing it further down the pitch.

Quins did win their own line-out, formed a maul and bulldozed through the Grenoble defence. Lowe added the downward pressure after the ball was sent over the try-line. Evans added the conversion. Harlequins 30 – 6 Grenoble with 11 minutes remaining.

A triple substitution for the hosts as Dickson, Ward and Lambert replaced Care, Gray and Marler.

After the restart was returned to the visitors, Grenoble ran with the ball back into Quins' half. They recycled quickly but knocked-on under pressure.

Chisholm joined the pitch in place of Lowe.

On this occasion the Quins' scrum failed handing a penalty to Grenoble. A simple 3 points was not enough for the French side and so they ran with the ball. The hosts, however, put the boot in at the break down and forced Grenoble to back track into their own 22.

They gathered and kicked high. Yarde spilled the ball in worsening rain. Following the scrum, Grenoble passed quickly.

The visiting outside centre Farrell was making an impact until Jamie Roberts put in a thumping tackle.

Quins stole possession and despite the clock having counted down, Yarde attempted to run the ball. Shouts of 'kick it out' came from the stands and eventually the ball went dead.

The whistle blew and Harlequins were into the European Challenge Cup Final.

Full Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 30 - 6 Grenoble


Harlequins will attempt to secure their 4th Challenge Cup title in Lyon when they face Montpellier on Friday 13th May.


posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 5:00 pm  

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