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Saturday, 1 December 2018

Harlequins 28 - 26 Exeter Chiefs at the Twickenham Stoop

It was a chilly Friday night in South West London yet a buoyant mood filled the Twickenham Stoop. Harlequins, always with a strong home support, were looking forward to a clash against the league leaders. The fans knew, one way or another, they were in for a fascinating match.

Coming into this weekend, the hosts had come away with points from every premiership game this season. This consistency positioned Quins fifth in table with three wins. Their visitors, Exeter Chiefs, had eight from eight.

As called upon by Head of Rugby Paul Gustard, the Harlequins fans were in good spirits and great voices from the first whistle. Lang kicked off for the hosts. Chiefs returned possession but then Quins chose to keep hold of the ball. They drove up the field, strengthened by the voices from the stands.

First line-out and first scrum to Quins. The host pack was strong and earned a penalty from the set-piece. Eager to get points on the board against Exeter, Lang split the posts with his boot: Harlequins 3 – 0 Exeter Chiefs (7 minutes).

Quins gathered the high-ball well and attempted to run from deep. Chiefs kept the hosts pinned in their own 22 and so scrum-half Danny Care was forced to box-kick into touch. Exeter secured the ball and sent it out wide. Strong tackles came in but a scrum was awarded to the visitors in white.

As the war chants were heard around the ground, Exeter earned a free-kick but instead of taking the three points, they kicked for the corner. The ball went loose and Quins saw an opportunity but the referee Ian Tempest deemed the reason for the loss to have been illegal side-entry. Another line-out to the visitors.

They secured the ball well and then their rolling maul drove for the line. The try was awarded (Kvesic). The attempted conversion hit the post. Harlequins 3 – 5 Exeter Chiefs (15 minutes).

Harlequins, in an attempt to get momentum going, passed quickly to the wing and a strong run ended up in touch. Chiefs secured the line-out and box-kicked, handing possession back to the hosts.

It was short-lived as the ball again found touch. The Chiefs, dominant in the set-piece, reclaimed possession and were then awarded a penalty. Trying to show their dominance early on, the visitors again kicked for the corner, secured the ball and in a play copying the earlier move, pushed for the line. On this occasion the ball was knocked-on and Quins had the put-in in a very defensive scum.

The hosts survived the set-piece and made it out of their own 22. The Chiefs were quick with their defence and forced the hosts to box-kick. This did not gain very much distance and simply handed the ball back to Exeter. They powered up the field but tackles were coming in thick and fast. Quins forced a knock-on but were soon overturned. A high tackle on Brown, however, handed Quins a free-kick.

The hosts gained territory but, on running with the ball, they again lost possession on the half-way line. Staunch defence, however, handed Quins a scrum mid-way as the ‘Harlequins’ chants started to reverberate around The Stoop.

In an attempted tackle, Chiefs again knocked-on. From the scrum, Quins kept ball-in-hand. Quick hands from Lang to Earle on the near wing kept play alive as Chiefs were quick on the tackles and fought hard at the breakdown.

The fans in the stands started to sing out once more as the hosts pushed up to the 22. Exeter were then penalised for not rolling away and the hosts kicked for the corner instead of taking the three points. As it turned out, the gamble was worth it as captain James Chisholm crossed the whitewash. Lang was unable to convert, hitting the post as his opposite number had done earlier in the game: Harlequins 8 – 5 Exeter Chiefs (30 minutes).

The weather started to play a part as Exeter slipped on the turf whilst in possession. This allowed Quins to attempt a turnover. They were awarded a penalty as the Chiefs held onto the ball. It was placed in touch in the 22 for an attacking line-out. They moved with pace and determination but just when it mattered, the ball was spilt forward.

Chiefs ran out of their own 22 before being brought down. They were forced to box-kick. Quins were strong under the high ball and great pace and teamwork brought the ball to within 10 metres of the try-line. Again they knocked-on but the fans applauded the play.

As the Harlequins chants again resonated, the hosts were penalised for collapsing the scrum. This was an easy let-off for the visitors who found touch and secured the line-out ball. Quins, however, were again able to turnover possession.

Seeing an opening, the hosts kicked. Exeter won the chase for the ball but a thumping tackle from Sinckler kept the visitors pinned in their own half.

The hosts intercepted a loose pass and made strides back up the field. Chiefs knocked-on in the tackle, handing a scrum to the hosts just outside the visiting 22.

The scrum again held firm and the ball was passed quickly to the near wing. Swift ball control between Brown and Earle allowed the winger to cross in the corner for a try. Again, it went unconverted as Lang pulled it wide of the near post. That was the final play of the first half.

Half Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 13 – 5 Exeter Chiefs

Within the opening play of the second half, Harlequins handed a scrum to Exeter after knocking-on when collecting the re-start ball. A cheer resounded, however, after the hosts were awarded a penalty. They kicked for a line-out, secured the ball and pushed up to the half-way line.

Care box-kicked long, allowing his team to chase and pin down the visitors. Chiefs returned the ball, sending it high for Mike Brown to catch. His hands were secure, even with the men in white bearing down on him.

Progress was slowing and Care passed out to Lang who was unable to catch cleanly and knocked-on at half-way. As the visiting fans started to chant loudly, the home fans sang ‘Harlequins’, mirroring the tomahawk and eventually drowning out the visitors.

The battle on the field continued with a strong turnover from the hosts but no sooner were they gathering momentum than a sloppy pass was thrown straight into touch.

Play was halted as Joe Marler received treatment for the hosts, but back on his feet and the line-out continued.

Quins attacked the set-piece but it was still Exeter who came away with possession. They, too, were not exempt from throwing loose passes but in their case, they retained the ball.

Exeter formed a maul and drove towards the line. Advantage was being played but they, too, threw their pass long and into touch. Play returned to the scene of the penalty and Exeter again went for the corner. They secured the ball and started a driving maul. Another advantage was called but it was unnecessary as captain Jack Yeandle dropped on the ball to score a try. Their fly-half Joe Simmonds added the extra 2 points: Harlequins 13 – 12 Exeter Chiefs (52 minutes).

Both teams then kicked for territory before Quins chased down the ball. They earned a penalty and kicked for touch. The hosts secured their line-out and formed a maul. Care then peeled away with the ball but Exeter regained possession.

They box-kicked but Brown gathered under pressure. Possession again switched sides as both teams seemed reluctant to keep hold of the ball. Exeter then made an unforced error, kicking the ball out on the full.

The hosts kept possession in the line-out and after slow progress passed to the wing where Nathan Earle fought his way across the line, being tackled but not held allowing him to scramble over. The conversion was added by Lang: Harlequins 20 – Exeter Chiefs 12 (58 minutes).

The Chiefs again sent the ball long and Care was forced to box-kick from the 22. The men in white gathered and with quick hands passed to and fro. They made it back into the 22 and earned a penalty for offside and then Quins were sent back another 10 metres.

The Game Changers were then called onto the pitch for the hosts as Mat Luamanu and Cadan Murley came on for Ben Glynn and Gabriel Ibitoye (61 minutes).

A poor line-out from the visitors allowed Quins to steal possession and Care kicked long. Although Exeter gathered, Quins thought they had overturned the ball. Instead, they were penalised and marched back another 10 metres.

The Chiefs kicked for touch in the host 22. They regained possession and ran for the try-line. Time was halted for a visit to the TMO (Television Match Official – Keith Lewis). The try was given and converted – the debate was whether the ball had been held-up. Harlequins 20 – 19 Exeter Chiefs.

Further Game Changers for Harlequins as Marcus Smith, Lewis Boyce and Phil Swainston replaced James Lang, Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler (63 minutes).

Quins again sent the re-start ball long; Chiefs gathered and box-kicked. Brown caught the high-ball and, unseen by the referee, was taken out in the air. Brown continued with play as normal and offloaded.

The hosts kept pushing on but the Chiefs’ defence held firm.

Marcus Smith, fresh on the field, attempted to chip though but it was blocked. Fearing a runaway try by the charging Chiefs, Brown was able to get back and gather. The visitors were then penalised for not rolling away. Smith lined up the posts. Harlequins 23 – 19 Exeter Chiefs (68 minutes).

From the restart, the Chiefs attempted to run rom halfway. They broke through the defensive line but Quins then turned over possession. The ball was chipped though the defence and a race was on, The Chiefs were able to touch down behind their line and kick from deep.

Quins gathered and attempted to kick along the touch-line. Out of play it strolled and Exeter, playing with urgency, secured the ball and immediately kicked for territory. The ball was kept in play and again run back into the 22.

A kicking game then ensued, with Smith following the traditional fly-half route of boot to ball. This simply handed possession back to a feisty Exeter.

Turnovers were aplenty and Murley made a superb offload to keep the ball alive. Quins crossed the whitewash but the ball was deemed to have been held-up.

The voices of the fans rang out around The Stoop as a scrum was formed.

Care delivered and received the ball quickly, passing to Murley. He was tackled and play slowed. Quins then knocked-on just metres from the try-line. Chiefs box-kicked into touch but Quins took a quick line-out and again made it into the 22 before a kick-through allowed Joe Marchant to score Quins’ 4th try of the game. Smith could not add the conversion: Harlequins 28 – 19 Exeter Chiefs (77 minutes).

Chiefs kicked long. Quins gathered and made it out of the 22 before Care box-kicked out. Quins then turned-over possession but overconfidence allowed an intercept try and easy conversion (78 minutes). Harlequins 28 – 26 Exeter Chiefs.

The re-start ball was kicked long and Quins were able to pin the visitors down. The men in white knocked-on handing a scrum to Quins as the clock counted down.

The songs were being sung. Quins secured the ball and kicked into touch with a historic bonus-point win over the league leaders.

Full Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 28 – 26 Exeter Chiefs

Attendance: 12,568


15 Mike Brown, 14 Gabriel Ibitoye, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 James Lang, 9 Danny Care, 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dave Ward, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Ben Glynn, 5 George Merrick, 6 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Jack Clifford, 8 James Chisholm ©

Game Changers
16 Max Crumpton, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Phil Swainston, 19 Mat Luamanu, 20 Semi Kunatani, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Cadan Murley

Exeter Chiefs
15 Phil Dollman, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 1 Moray Low, 2 Jack Yeandle ©, 3 Greg Holmes, 4 Mitch Lees, 5 Dave Dennis, 6 Dave Ewers, 7 Don Armand, 8 Matt Kvesic

16 Elvis Taione, 12 Billy Keast, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Ollie Devoto

Match report: Natalie Osborne Photos: Chris Spring
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 11:15 am  

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