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Saturday, 29 April 2017

Harlequins take the sting out of Wasps at Twickenham and keep their European hopes alive

It was a strange atmosphere in the Twickenham Stoop ahead of the evening kick-off.

Harlequins were playing their final home game of the regular season and against the league leaders Wasps.

Going into the game, the visitors had only lost three games all season; Quins on the other hand had an equal number of wins and losses.

Director of Rugby for Harlequins, John Kingston, called for an even stronger voice from the ever faithful fan club in a game that was crucial to the on-going fight to get an automatic European Champions Cup place for next season.

Mathematically it was still possible for the Twickenham-based club to finish in the top six, with six clubs fighting for that spot in the table.

Wasps had already secured a top-four finish but were determined to maintain the number one position in the English Premiership table.

The visitors have only lost once in their last 5 games against Quins. It was time for some payback.

The final game in Quins’ 150th anniversary year at home for the regular season also saw Matt Hopper, Karl Dickson and Nick Evans play at The Stoop for the final time. Evans had the honour of leading his team out onto the pitch to a standing ovation along with pyrotechnics in what was sure to be a sign of things to come in the game that followed.

Referee Wayne Barnes, a fan favourite, blew his whistle to get proceedings underway, with Nick Evans taking his final home kick off. The voice of the crowds sang out loud and proud.

A turnover for Wasps, who then sent a grubber kick through and into the safe hands of Mike Brown. The ball went wide to Marchant who broke through the defence but the visitors again turned over possession and kicked to touch.

The hosts secured lineout ball and made strides into the 22 before again losing possession at the breakdown. All Wasps could muster was a box-kick into the waiting arms of Yarde who side stepped his way out of trouble.

Penalty to the hosts who acted quickly, again entering the 22 before a long pass landed awkwardly for Matthews who knocked on.

Referee Barnes reset the scrum before Wasps fed, hooked and kicked the ball into touch.

Quins again secured lineout ball and passed wide, the ball ending in touch giving Wasps an attacking platform. Quins were determined to hinder and they did, stealing possession.

The hosts secured another lineout and Brown danced his way through the defence. Advantage Quins; then penalty as captain Danny Care found himself engulfed.

Evans kicked for the corner; the hosts secured the line-out ball. The forwards gained ground before passing to the wing as Wasps strayed offside. This time Evans signalled for the posts and successfully kicked the first points of the game: Harlequins 3 – 0 Wasps in the 12th minute.

Horwill knocked on whilst attempting to gather the restart ball; Marler made a thumping tackle; and Robshaw was penalised for going through the ensuing ruck. The visitors lined up the posts but sent the ball wide, missing out on the opportunity to level the scores.

Proceedings again got underway with more off the ball discussions. Referee Barnes was having none of it and allowed play to continue. Quins kicked away possession to ease the pressure on their try-line and Wasps knocked on whilst trying to gather.

Care fed the scrum but it rose, handing advantage to the hosts. The scrum was reset, and despite another collapse, the ball was released and Quins marched on.

Roberts to Visser in a fingertip catch, back to Brown before being passed out to the other wing. Evans attempted a long pass but it was just out of reach of Robshaw, forcing the no. 6 to knock on. Scrum to Wasps just outside their own 22.

They sent the ball out to the far wing before box-kicking, allowing Brown to run it right back and earn a penalty just inside opposition territory. Quins kicked long finding touch inside the 22.

Horwill secured line out ball, Care passed to Wallace then Marler from the ruck. Just metres from the try-line, Wasps stole possession and kicked, failing to find touch.

Quins ran it back but the visitors earned a penalty on the halfway line, kicking to touch in the 22. They secured possession and passed quickly.

The Quins’ defence was being tested, and thumping tackle successfully made. Quins overturned possession and kicked long into the arms of the waiting Wasps’ fly-half Gopperth.

He sent the ball high and back into Quins’ hands. They again kicked and Gopperth ran the ball back breaking through the defence, passing to his scrum half Robson who crossed for a try. Gopperth added the conversion: Harlequins 3 – 7 Wasps after 27 minutes. Meanwhile Harlequins Captain Danny Care was replaced by Karl Dickson; an ice pack immediately applied to the ribs.

Play got under way with a deep kick from Quins. Wasps attempted to run it back but Wade fumbled and knocked on. Scrum to Quins in the opposition territory. Dickson fed; advantage to Quins; the replacement scrum half acted quickly.

Play was then brought back for the penalty and Quins kicked for touch 10 metres from the Wasps’ try-line. Matthews secured the ball at a stretch whilst still being lifted. A maul formed and they drove for the line. The ball went into touch handing Wasps a defensive lineout. Quins fought bravely and earned a scrum.

After a couple of resets the ball was won by Wasps who sliced it back into touch in desperation.

Quins won the lineout and ran with the ball. Thumping tackles were being made and Buchanan spilled the ball, luckily it went backwards. Playing advantage for a high tackle by Young, Evans attempted a drop goal before lining up the posts for a penalty.

Another 3 points from the boot of the fly-half brought the scores back to within 1 point: Harlequins 6 – 7 Wasps at 36 minutes.

The restart ball was gathered well by Quins and individual breaks saw the hosts progress up the field earning a penalty in opposition territory. Evans again lined up the posts to take the lead, but this time he pushed the ball wide.

Brown secured the restart ball and sent it high for Visser, although the wing was beaten in the air by Wade. The visitors gained a penalty of their own and Gopperth increased the lead at half-time: Harlequins 6 – 10 Wasps.

Half Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 6 – 10 Wasps

Wasps kicked off the second half and the hosts gathered well before box-kicking into touch still within their own half. The visitors secured the line-out ball and formed a maul. They broke away and made it into the 22 with relative ease.

Quins did intercept and again box-kicked from the ruck but it went straight into touch, taking play back.

Wasps secured possession and drove up the field. They kicked for a chase but Brown was equal to the task and touched down for a 22 drop-out.

Quins kicked long; Wasps sent the ball high and Horwill broke the defence. The visitors attempted an interception but failed. This opened a gap for Robshaw to break through before passing to Visser who crossed the whitewash.

It was deathly silent in the Twickenham Stoop as Evans lined up the posts; eruption sounded as the conversion was successful: Harlequins 13 – 10 Wasps with 33 minutes remaining.

Wasps kicked the ball straight out on the restart handing a scrum to the hosts. The ball was fed and passed quickly following pressure from the opposition.

“Come on you Quins” resonated around the Twickenham Stoop after Sinckler earned a scrum. Meanwhile Wasps started their replacements: Cooper-Woolley on for Swainston with 32 minutes remaining.

Another solid scrum from both sides. Dickson passed to Horwill and Wasps stole possession, kicking long. Yarde made it back to reclaim possession. It was passed to the far wing then back, with Brown passing to Yarde who darted through.

A penalty was then awarded to the hosts just outside the 22 and Evans added the three points: Harlequins 16 – 10 Wasps with 28 minutes left.

Wasps sent the restart long but Quins secured it and Visser attempted to break. The hosts earned a line-out and Matthews secured the ball. They formed a maul before Buchanan broke free. Sinckler ended up playing scrum half after a strong fight for the ball engulfed Dickson.

A game of football ensued before Wasps found touch on the half-way line. The hosts secured possession and Evans broke through He was unable to offload and Wasps won a penalty. They kicked long into touch on the hosts’ 22.

The visitors secured line-out ball and passed quickly. Quins, however, kept their nerve and earned a penalty. Evans found touch as Wasps replaced Myall for Rowlands (23 minutes remaining).

Buchanan delivered; Horwill secured the ball. They formed a maul. Dickson placed a beautiful chip forward which was gathered well and the referee showed yellow to Wasps fall-back Le Roux for taking Marchant out in the air. Evans lined up the posts and added another three points: Harlequins 19 – 10 Wasps with 21 minutes left.

The visiting fly-half issued instructions before resuming play. He kicked long, Quins gathered and returned the ball before Wasps found touch on the hosts’ 22.

Buchanan found his mark in Matthews. The referee signalled a penalty to the hosts before reversing his decision following a reaction from Sinckler.

Wasps placed the ball in touch just shy of the try-line. They then earned another penalty and kicked for the posts: Harlequins 19 – 13 Wasps (17 minutes remaining).

Hughes on for Young (Wasps); Sinckler off, Collier on (Quins).

The visitors were pushed for holding on to the ball.

Evans found touch just outside the Wasps’ 22; secured line-out ball and passed to the far wing. Finding a strong defence, Quins attempted to chip over.

Wasps, however, secured possession and box-kicked long. Yarde saved the ball from entering touch and Quins ran the ball back into opposition territory.

Evans attempted a cross-field kick but it was just too long, out of reach for Yarde and running into touch.

Triple replacement for Wasps: Robson, Mullan and Bassett left the pitch for McIntyre, Simpson and Cipriani – 14 minutes remaining.

Despite a good challenge from the hosts in the lineout, Wasps secured possession. They opted to kick but it went straight into touch, handing an attacking lineout to Quins on the 22.

Strong tackles came flying in but the hosts opted to grab and drive. The visitors turned over possession and found touch, still within their own 22.

Having served his sin-bin, Le Roux returned to the pitch for Wasps (13 minutes remaining).

The line-out was secured and a maul formed. Penalty to the hosts and Evans signalled the posts. Another three points: Harlequins 22 – 13 Wasps with just 10 minutes remaining.

Horwill off, Merrick on for Harlequins.

Cipriani kicked-off proceedings; Quins gathered but were forced to box-kick out. A penalty was awarded to the hosts after a deliberate knock-on. Evans found touch in opposition territory and Matthews once again secured the ball.

Dickson had to dig deep but he retrieved the ball from the ruck. Merrick made strides before being taken down; Evans to Brown; Marler grabbed and drove; slowly Quins advanced.

Advantage was awarded to the hosts as Buchanan broke free and onwards towards the try-line. Another yellow card was shown to Wasps Captain Launchbury but no penalty-try. Evans lined up the posts and was again successful: Harlequins 25 – 13 Wasps with just 6 minutes left.

Alofa Alofa came on in place of Roberts for the hosts.

The restart ball was secured well by Quins; Evans kicked long and Wasps made it just shy of the half-way line before being tackled. Wasps still had a sting in their tail and were fighting to the end. They recycled the ball quickly and accurately, slowly making ground.

Brilliant work in the breakdown saw the hosts earn a penalty as Wasps held desperately onto the ball.

Evans found touch on the half-way line (Luamanu and Marler off, Ward and Lambert on for Quins, just three minutes left).

Matthews secured lineout ball; a maul formed and drove up the filed. The ball then broke from the pack and the hosts attempted to drive up the middle before going out to the wing. Wasps challenged every breakdown but Quins were strong.

The ball was turned over but Quins stole it back and Marchant finally crossed for his try. The conversion was added by Man of the Match Nick Evans.

Full Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 32 – 13 Wasps

A great atmosphere, turning emotional at the end as Karl Dickson and Nick Evans said their farewells and thank you’s in front of a sell-out crowd.

Harlequins moved into 6th position in the table and the final European Champions Cup slot, just 3 points ahead of next week’s hosts Northampton Saints. Saints face Exeter later today in a game which could see the Northampton side climb ahead of Harlequins.


15 Mike Brown (VC), 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 1 Joe Marler, 2 Rob Buchanan, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Charlie Matthews, 5 James Horwill (VC), 6 Chris Robshaw, 7 Luke Wallace, 8 Mat Luamanu


16 Joe Gray, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Will Collier, 19 George Merrick, 20 Dave Ward, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Alofa Alofa


15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 1 Matt Mullan, 2 Tommy Taylor, 3 Phil Swainston, 4 Joe Launchbury ©, 5 Kearnan Myall, 6 James Haskell, 7 Thomas Young, 8 Guy Thompson


16 Tom Cruse, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Nathan Hughes, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Alapati Leiua

Interview and Report by Natalie Osborne. Photos by Chris Spring.
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 1:30 pm  

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