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Saturday, 12 October 2013

European Cup action at the Twickenham Stoop

After a beautiful, sunny start to the day, clouds gathered above The Stoop in Twickenham just in time for kick off. Harlequins vs Scarlets in round one of the European Cup.

It has been a disappointing start to the premiership seasons for Quins and today they were hoping for a dominating performance.

They passed with confidence out to the wing and back but the Scarlets’ defence was firm. Easter, back in his natural 8 position, was the first to bring the game-line passed half-way. They showed their determination to press on, with Botica chipping the ball through – good intent but a lack of support in the chase.

Scarlets won their first line-out 3 minutes in to the game but it came to nothing as a knock-on handed the first scrum to Harlequins.

The new scrum routine was still catching people out and after two attempts a penalty was awarded to the visitors; Care the culprit of not feeding the ball straight.

Possession changed sides but Quins stole the ball and a great move by Hopper broke through the opponent’s defence. The home side earned a line-out but the visitors stole the ball. All too easily Scarlets slipped through the home defence with well-timed passes, keeping momentum all the way to the line. Williams with the try, Priestland added the conversion – Scarlets 7 points on the board with a quarter of the first half gone.

Following the restart Quins found themselves under pressure deep within their own half after loose passing. The visitors mounted the attack and earned themselves a penalty and a clear 10 point lead.

The home fans tried to spur on their team but the singing from the visitors in the North Stand kept the opponents on top. Easter became isolated and was penalised for holding on to the ball. 15 minutes gone and Scarlets added another 3 points to the scoreboard.

There was a moment of hope for Quins after a line-out was thrown long into the arms of a waiting Fa’asavalu. Harlequins’ no. 6 broke into the visitor’s 22 but pulled-up in pain and had to be substituted.

20 minutes into the game and Evans opened the scoring for the home side with a penalty.

A vocal battle broke out in the stands – the chants of the Quins’ supporters up against the songs of the Welsh. On the pitch possession kept changing hands; Brown confidently caught testing high balls; Hopper making thumping tackles. Yet Scarlets again came close to scoring after kicking, starting a race to ground the ball – on this occasion won by Quins, allowing them to kick to safety.

Scarlets came again but the Television Match Official did not award a try.

It was Harlequins’ turn to mount a charge, and this they did from the half-way line.

Evans kicked up field; Easter collected and offloaded to Brown who crossed for a try in the 33rd minute. Evans added the conversion to bring Quins back within 3 points.

There was new life to Quins as they again charged for the line, miss-passes halting their progression.

Scarlets gathered up a long kick from the home-side and evaded tackles, crossing the line in the final minute of the first half. Priestland added the conversion giving the visitors a 10-point lead going into half-time.

Half Time: Harlequins 10 – 20 Scarlets

For the first time at The Stoop, the half-time break saw a marriage proposal on the pitch (she said ‘yes’). Was this to be a good omen for the rest of the game?

Play resumed with the ball being kicked up and down the field; the two teams testing each other.

Scarlets were temporarily reduced to 14 men after a stamping incident on Will Collier – Samson Lee lucky not to see red.

Evans added 3 points to the Quins’ scoreboard after a drop-goal in the 44th minute.

The no. 10 then placed a stunning kick into touch deep into Scarlets’ territory. Play continued in their half until a penalty was awarded to the visitors, allowing them to kick for a line-out just outside the Quins’ 22.

It was taken well by the visitors but the home side stole possession only for the Scarlets to then turnover the ball in a ruck. They attempted a drop-goal; knowing the referee was playing advantage for an offside offence. Priestland added anther 3 points in the penalty which followed.

A fumble by Quins then handed their opponents a scrum, which evolved into a penalty. The visitors now had a commanding lead as another 3 points were added to their scoreboard.

Brown made a good run for the home side, taking play back into the visitor’s half. They earned a penalty after the Scarlets failed to release. Evans reduced the deficit to 10 points.

Quins continued to attack and Williams kicked the ball for another race to the line. Scarlets came in first.

Two penalties came in quick succession for the home side. For the first they opted for a line-out chasing maximum points but it came to nothing. Evans kicked the second and added 3 points.

No sooner had Quins started their comeback than Scarlets stole the ball having ripped it from Marler’s hands during a tackle and crossed for an easy try. It was converted leaving the home side needing two converted tries to draw level with just 15 minutes of play left.

Brown took up the challenge and in the 69th minute controlled his run, evaded two tackles and added 5 points to the scoreboard, Evans adding the important conversion from out on the wing.

It looked as though Quins might pull off this comeback, with Scarlets missing a penalty and another sin-bin for continued infringements. The home-side maul was devastating; progressing ever closer to the line. They then passed out wide to Sackey who grounded the ball over the try-line but not before being tackled into touch.

Scarlets had the throw in the line-out and won a penalty after Quins were deemed to have brought the line down. The final whistle blew.

The visitors were relentless and outplayed Quins in the opening quarter of the game. Had Harlequins been more alert at the start, there was a strong possibility they would have come out with a win. A great attempt at a comeback by Quins – the fans pushing them all the way and it is not easy when playing against a Welsh side full of passion, belief and song.

Full Time: Harlequins 26 – 33 Scarlets

posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 9:50 pm  

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