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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Harlequins launch Anglo-Welsh cup campaign in spectacular style at the Twickenham Stoop

A strong performance from Harlequins last week against Worcester Warriors saw the Twickenham-based Rugby Union side catapult themselves into the top half of the English premiership table.

This week play moved away from the Premiership to the Anglo-Welsh Cup, a tournament Harlequins won back in 2013.

Their opponents for the first round clash Saturday evening, Exeter Chiefs, won the tournament the following year in 2014.

History has proven the clash between these two sides is always a competitive and challenging one. Last night was set to be no different with the Chiefs having won three of the last five visits to the Twickenham Stoop.

With several players called to represent their country, Dave Ward captained the hosts.

It was a chilly but clear evening. The players, coaching staff and spectators observed a minute’s silence in honour of the Poppy Appeal on a pitch which had the Union Flag mown into it.

Within the opening few passages of play the hosts found themselves being pushed back as the Chiefs forced the momentum.

Quins did steal possession and Alofa Alofa kicked the ball on to set up the chase. He was, however, taken out off the ball during the chase, which brought his game to an early finish; Alofa Alofa replaced by Ross Chisholm.

The referee Craig Evans looked at the incident multiple times on replay and a penalty was awarded to the hosts who kicked for a line-out. A maul then formed but Chiefs were awarded the scrum.

The visitors attempted to run the ball from deep but strong Quins pressure forced the scrum-half and captain Jack Maunder to box-kick to safety, finding touch.

Quins secured their line-out and passed the ball wide; Charlie Walker opting to chip over, unfortunately into the waiting arms of the Chiefs who called for the mark.

The hosts were certainly determined to make a positive start following last week’s powerful performance and ran with ball in hand, desperately trying to find the weak link in Exeter’s defence.

The hosts earned a penalty in front of the posts and Evans was back on form kicking the opening 3 points: Harlequins 3 – 0 Exeter Chiefs after 8 minutes.

The restart was kicked long and Quins returned the ball.

A superb thumping tackle by Quins no. 8 Mat Luamanu on the Chiefs fly-half Will Hooley caused the no.10 to drop to the floor. Medics were immediately on the pitch keeping the head still and play was halted.

After much discussion Luamanu was shown a yellow card. His tackle was sound but ended up being high as Hooley lowered his stance to duck under. The red card was not issued due to mitigating circumstances that the fly-half also slipped whilst attempting to avoid the tackle.

It was the end of Hooley’s game; Joe Simmonds coming on in his stead.

Play resumed with a kick into touch and line-out. Charlie Matthews attempted to disrupt Exeter’s set piece however the visitors maintained possession.

Although the hosts’ defence was slowing momentum, it could not repel the attack. Chiefs made it to the try-line and the referee once again halted play to go to the Television Match Official. No try was given.

5 metre scrum to Exeter, overturned to a Quins penalty. Evans sent the ball spiralling into touch over the half-way line.

Quins Hooker Joe Gray received treatment to his throwing arm before finding his target Matthews. Another maul formed. The scrum-half was told to use the ball and so he despatched it. Little ground was made before Quins won another line-out. This time the maul gained momentum and a long kick along the wing put pressure on Chiefs – pressure they were well capable of absorbing.

The visitors kicked for territory but this simply allowed Quins to come again, this time with pace. Aaron Morris crossed the try-line; Evans unable to add the conversion: Harlequins 8 – 0 Exeter Chiefs after 17 minutes.

Quins gathered the re-start ball well but were pressured into taking a quick box-kick. It went high, gaining no distance, and Chiefs claimed the ball.

Exeter’s no. 11 James Short slipped passed an attempted tackle by Quins scrum-half Charlie Mulchrone and planted the ball behind the try-line for an easy response. Chiefs replacement fly-half Simmonds lined up for the conversion but sent the ball across the face of the posts: Harlequins 8 – 5 Exeter Chiefs with a quarter of the game gone.

Luamanu returned to the field for the hosts having served his sin-bin.

The re-start was kicked long and Chiefs attempted to gather it, lifting their players high. Unfortunately they over-stretched and Quins regained possession. It was short-lived as the visitors were awarded a scrum in their own half.

The fans in the stand started to chant ‘Harlequins’ to spur on their team. This worked as Charlie Walker stole possession at the breakdown. An attempted grubber kick was blocked and Chiefs jumped on the ball however a penalty was awarded to the hosts.

As Evans lined up the posts, fireworks went off in the night sky. People so used to being silent when the kick takes place started to ‘shush’ the fireworks to a mini ripple of sniggers. Evans, oblivious to this, secured the three points: Harlequins 11 – 5 Exeter Chiefs after 23 minutes .

An aerial battle ensued to calm the pace and gain territory before the Chiefs opted to run with ball in hand. They made it into the Quins half before going off their feet.

Evans sent the ball into touch for an attacking line-out in the Chiefs’ 22.

Matthews once again secured line-out ball, a rolling maul formed but the ensuing scrum went the way of the visitors.

The voices of the Chiefs travelling fans were then drowned out by the home fans who sang ‘Harlequins’ to the tune of Exeter’s chants during a moment of light entertainment – the host fans definitely winning the battle off the pitch.

Quins fall-back Aaron Morris knocked on whilst trying to secure the high-ball and advantage was being played until the ball rolled in touch.

The visitors started their replacements with Harry Strong coming on in place of an injured Phil Dollman with less than 10 minutes of the first half left to play.

A strong tackle on the far wing gave Harlequins the put-in at the scrum after the ball was spilled on impact.

The normal ‘Harlequins’ chant resonated around the ground whilst the set-piece was re-set.

Marchant took the hit from the defence and the ball was recycled. Morris attempted to break through but was brought down. Evans found a gap and made progress before he, too, felt the grass. Chiefs turned over possession and their no. 14 Max Bodilly sucked in three defenders to bring him down.

Fans were calling out for the referee to pause play as Quins had two players down; one a suspected head injury. Play was eventually halted when the hosts earned a penalty.

Stan South left the pitch for Mark Reddish in what was supposed to be a blood replacement for Harlequins. It later became a permanent replacement. The other injury, Ross Chisholm, was able to return to his feet and attempted to shake off his knock.

Evans found touch from his 22 and the line-out was secured by the hosts. They box-kicked and the Chiefs came again. They failed to release the ball and so the hosts earned yet another penalty; this time James Lang lined up the posts. He was unsuccessful and Quins remained just 6 points ahead.

The hosts, on gaining possession following the re-start, opted to run with the ball, winding the clock down to end the first half.

Half-Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 11 – 5 Exeter Chiefs

Evans kicked off the second half aiming long and forcing the Chiefs to defend deep in their 22.

Quins gathered the returned ball and earned a penalty, kicking for a line-out.

The ball was secured by the hosts albeit with a fight. They earned advantage and so Evans attempted a chip-through, which came to nothing.

Marchant had given his all during the first 40 minutes for Quins and was clearly struggling with injury at the start of the second 40 minutes. He was replaced by Luc Jones. Ruaridh Jackson also came on in place of Ross Chisholm.

Evans kicked for another line-out; the hosts secured possession and formed a rolling maul. The Chiefs slowed play enough to regroup as the ball came away from the maul. The forwards attempted to grab and drive over the try-line before releasing the backs. They knocked-on at the try-line however the visitors were penalised for collapsing the ensuing scrum.

Evans opted for the posts, sending the ball straight through the middle. Harlequins 14 – 5 Exeter Chiefs after 47 minutes.

No sooner had play resumed than Exeter had an attempt at the posts. It, too, was successful: Harlequins 14 – 8 Exeter Chiefs just one minute later.

A line-out was awarded to the visitors in their own half; a maul formed before they broke free. The Chiefs sped their way over the half-way line before Quins slowed play. Matthews was penalised and Chiefs found touch in Quins’ 22.

Elvis Taione came on in place of Shaun Malton for the Chiefs with just 30 minutes left to play.

Once again they secured their line-out with Quins deciding not to challenge. The maul progressed a few feet before the hosts dug in. Chiefs were forced to run and earned a penalty as Quins failed to roll away following a tackle.

The visitors opted for a line-out, formed a maul and powered over the line for their second try of the game, their recent replacement Taione was the scorer.

They added the conversion and for the first time this game, the Chiefs pulled ahead: Harlequins 14 – 15 Exeter Chiefs with 26 minutes left.

A penalty was awarded to Quins and Lang attempted a long-range kick between the posts. He had missed his first attempt this game, and this, his second, was to pull the hosts back in front. He had the legs but not the aim. Quins remained one point behind the visitors.

The re-start was run from deep by the hosts however they struggled to get out of their half. They were forced to kick and despite a strong aerial challenge for the high-ball from the hosts, it was the visitors who came away with possession on the half-way line.

The Exeter fans, having found their usual chant usurped by the host fans, opted for a different chant – simply ‘Chiefs’. This, too, was out-chanted by ‘Quins’.

On the field, meanwhile, the Chiefs knocked-on handing a scrum to the hosts.

With a quarter of the game left to play, Moray Low replaced Greg Holmes for Exeter.

The visitors were penalised for collapsing the scrum and Evans found touch in the opposition 22.

Gray received his throwing orders, and after a battle in the air, the hooker also secured the ball after neither side were able to keep hold.

Taione was sin-binned for the Chiefs and Evans brought Quins back into the lead with a penalty kick: Harlequins 17 – 15 Exeter Chiefs with 19 minutes left.

Exeter continued to battle on having secured a line-out and passed the ball from one wing to the other. They made breaks through the defence and it was a very nervous time for the hosts who were forced to defend at their best. They earned a penalty in their own half.

With just 16 minutes left Tom Lawday replaced Ben White for Exeter and Shaun Malton, only recently replaced himself, had to return to the field in place of Dave Ewers to allow a competitive scrum to take place following Taione’s yellow card.

Luc Jones fed the scrum and the Quins’ set-piece once again overpowered the visitors, earning another penalty. Evans found touch in the opposition 22.

Matthews secured line-out ball for the hosts, a maul formed, and Jones rescued the ball and ran. He made good ground.

Walker ran at pace and found a gap in the defence, receiving the ball as he ran through. He crossed the line for a try. Evans lined up the posts but pushed the ball wide: Harlequins 22 – 15 Exeter Chiefs with 12 minutes remaining.

In a very competitive game, the re-start was taken quickly.

Quins returned the ball and Exeter attempted to run out of their own half. The hosts had belief and kept the visitors pinned down. The Chiefs were forced to kick but placed the ball well and found touch.

The hosts stole possession and sped into the opposition 22. Walker again found the gap in the defence and powered through, offloading under tackle to allow Jones to cross for a try. A replay dispelled any doubts that the ball came off a Chief’s arm as opposed to forward off his teammate.

Evans added the conversion: Harlequins 29 – 15 Exeter Chiefs with 7 minutes left to play.

Taione returned to the pitch for Exeter allowing Malton to return to the bench and Ewers to reclaim his slot. However it was too late to have any real impact.

The Chiefs fought back and a desperate tackle brought down the attack in the hosts’ 22.

A scrum was awarded to Quins; the ball retrieved and kicked into touch. This break in play allowed Owen Evans, Adam Jones and George Naoupu to take to the field for Harlequins to rapturous applause with 5 minutes left. Charlie Piper also saw action, replacing Joe Gray.

The ball was retrieved by Quins and kicked for territory. Chiefs ran it back into the hosts half before once again meeting stubborn defence.

Quins stole possession and made it back into the opposition half before themselves losing the ball.

A sloppy knock-on by the visitors handed a scrum to Quins. The clock counted down as the scrum reset. Despite time up, Quins decided to play the ball and ran with it looking to score another try. Evans broke the defence and offloaded well. It was not to be, however, as the Chiefs stole possession.

The referee blew the whistle bringing the game to a close.

Full-Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 29 – 15 Exeter Chiefs

With just a 6-day turnaround, Harlequins must prepare themselves for round 2 of the Anglo-Welsh Cup travelling to Swansea to face Ospreys on Friday.

Nick Evans was named Man of the Match.

Attendance: 8,000

Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 James Lang, 11 Alofa Alofa , 10 Nick Evans, 9 Charlie Mulchrone, 1 Mark Lambert, 2 Joe Gray, 3 Will Collier, 4 Stan South, 5 Charlie Matthews, 6 James Chisholm, 7 Dave Ward© , 8 Mat Luamanu

Subs: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Luc Jones, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Ross Chisholm

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Max Bodilly, 13 Ollie Devoto, 12 Sam Hill, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Jack Maunder ©
1 Ben Moon, 2 Shaun Malton, 3 Greg Holmes, 4 Ollie Atikins, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 8 Tom Johnson

Subs: 16 ElvisTaione,17 Billy Keast, 18, Moray Low, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Stuart Townsend, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Harry Strong
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 3:39 pm  

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