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Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Harlequins overcome Gloucester fight-back to win the Big Game 9 at Twickenham

Now very much a part of the festive period, the Big Game at Twickenham Stadium seems to have been as popular this year as it has ever been.

Harlequins marched over from their usual home ground The Stoop in what has become as much of the fixture as the rugby itself.

This years’ clash of premiership rugby teams was a repeat of last years’ Big Game: Harlequins versus Gloucester Rugby. Last time round following a thrilling 80 minutes it ended in a 39-39 draw. Today both teams were hoping to take it one step further.

Chris Robshaw was hoping to return for his first game with Harlequins following international duty however he failed a fitness test ahead of the game.

The spectators waited anxiously for the start of the Big Game. In another tradition of the fixture, the game ball is delivered to the pitch in ever more daring ways. Today was a base jump from the roof of Twickenham Stadium – the Union Flag his parachute.

Following a pyrotechnic display the real heat got underway.

Through the smoke Gloucester kicked off the game and Brown found distance in his return kick, finding touch.

The opposition kept possession in the line-out and broke free of Quins. Only a superb tackle from Yarde prevented a try, with the subsequent offload being deemed a knock-on.

Quins had the first put-in at the scrum and promptly won a penalty.

From 5 metres from their own line, Quins placed the ball in touch on the half-way line. They won their line-out and Brown once again found space behind the defence – a perfect placement but with just too much on the ball, trickling over the try-line. The ball came back for a scrum just inside the Quins’ half.

Referee JP Doyle blew to reset the scrum after both sides raised.

Attempt number two and the scrum held firm. Gloucester again made a break but Yarde and Chisholm were there to stop them. Chisholm acted quickly and turned-over the ball but stepped into touch before beginning his sprint.

Merrick was then penalised for not rolling away allowing Gloucester to reclaim some territory and kick into touch for a line-out inside the host’s half.

The Cherry and Whites again kept possession and formed a rolling maul. It was stopped illegally by Matthews and Harlequins handed their opponents another penalty. Instead of going for the posts, they kicked for the corner, sensing a yellow card looming for the hosts.

The line-out again held firm and a cross-field kick for Sharples to gather was just too powerful with the ball going dead. This was, however, a free-play as the referee was playing advantage.

Play was therefore brought back and Quins were forced to defend their try-line once again. This they did well and themselves earned the put-in at the scrum that followed.

A brief pause to take on water and treatment to injuries before play resumed.

Captain Danny Care fed the scrum; the hosts overpowering Gloucester and earning a penalty. They kicked and found touch just inside their own half.

Quins won the contested line-out and formed a rolling maul of their own, gaining another penalty off the visitors.

A superb kick from Jackson gave Quins an attacking platform on the 22 but no sooner had the hosts won the line-out, they then lost possession to the Cherry and Whites who found the safety of the touchline just inside their own half.

Quins won line-out ball but could not get a maul formed. They passed out to the wing.

It came back to the centre before heading out to Roberts who broke through the defence, passing to Visser who was eventually brought down.

The ball was recycled well but a knock-on handed a scrum to Gloucester in front of their own posts.

Gloucester dug deep and earned a penalty; they found touch just inside the half-way line.

The visitors threw too long and Wallace took full advantage stealing the ball. Little progress was made before Gloucester themselves turned-over the ball and made strides at the hosts’ defence.

Visser attempted an interception but the ball remained with the Cherry and Whites. They recycled well but were pushed backwards by an impressive Quins’ defensive line. Eventually they sent the ball high and it was gathered by Yarde who made his own strides back.

Possession was again short-lived. Meanwhile Thrush came on the pitch for Savage in a temporary blood replacement for Gloucester after a quarter of the game.

The visitors kicked for territory and a line-out in Quins’ half. In open play the ball was turned over. The hosts struggled to make it out of their own half so Care box-kicked. The ball was returned and Quins attempted to run. Little distance was gathered and so Brown sent the ball high.

The Cherry and Whites claimed possession but a knock-on handed the scrum to Harlequins. It was upgraded to a penalty as the opposition went in too early. Captain Care acted quickly. He ran then passed wide to Visser. It came back inside and Matthews fumbled the ball – luckily it went backwards.

An aerial battle ensued before the ball went into touch. Quins won the line-out, formed a maul before opening up play. Cheers resonated around the stadium as Visser darted through the defence, but failing to escape his final tackle. The ball was recycled and Wallace went over, only for him to have been deemed held-up.

A scrum 5 metres out for the hosts as ‘the Mighty Quinn’ was sung around Twickenham.

Care got the signal to feed the scrum but it collapsed. The referee reset it, positioning himself at the point of collapse.

The ball was hooked out and passed effortlessly from hand to hand until Marchant crossed the line for the first try of the game on 28 minutes. Jackson was unable to convert: Harlequins 5 – 0 Gloucester Rugby

Blood substitution was reversed: Savage back on in place of Thrush for Gloucester.

The restart kick was gathered just outside the hosts’ 22 and was box-kicked back to the opponents. The Cherry and Whites no 14 Sharples broke through the defence who were looking a little sleepy but a strong tackle by Marler turned over the ball for the hosts.

They kicked for territory; Gloucester returned the favour. Pressure on the hosts who had to win their own line-out 10 metres away from their own line. They succeeded but a tight box-kick handed a line-out to Gloucester still inside the 22.

The visitors earned a penalty in front of the posts as Matthews kicked the ball from the scrum-half’s hands and this time they decided to kick. It was an easy three points for Laidlaw.

Harlequins 5 – 3 Gloucester Rugby on 33 minutes.

Following the restart, Harlequins were pushed back into their own half. Care was forced to box-kick as an escape. The ball was sent back and it bounced off Brown. Luckily it went backwards allowing Quins to continue their possession. The hosts then kicked a high-ball of their own and the Gloucester fly-half knocked-on under pressure, handing a scrum – then penalty – to the hosts. Jackson signalled for the posts: Harlequins 8 – 3 Gloucester Rugby 38 minutes.

The restart ball was gathered well by Matthews who offloaded to Sinckler. The ball was sent to the wing before Jackson attempted a grubber kick through. Gloucester returned the ball high which Brown gathered.

Play was then halted as referee JP Doyle called for the TMO (Television Match Official). Doyle mistakenly pulled a red card from his pocket before realising his error and showing a yellow to Gloucester’s Jonny May for a cynical play, interfering with play whilst on the ground.

Jackson again lined up the posts for a penalty and added the three points ending the first half.

Half Time at Twickenham Stadium: Harlequins 11 – 3 Gloucester Rugby

Harlequins kicked off the second half of the game.

Possession was stolen from the visitors by Luke Wallace and then Jack Clifford crossed the white-wash for his first try this season. Jackson added the conversion: Harlequins 18 – 3 Gloucester Rugby on 43 minutes.

Following the restart, Care box-kicked for territory, forcing play back towards the half-way line. Gloucester powered they way to the 22 and whilst attempting a turnover, Quins knocked on. Gloucester handled the scrum well and with swift hands attempted to breach the home defence. It was Moriarty who was penalised for holding on to the ball after great play from Wallace.

Harlequins placed the ball in touch still within their own half and Matthews secured the line-out. A maul formed but made little progress, forcing Care to box-kick. Yarde attempted a chase but could not get there ahead of the Cherry and Whites.

In a moment of a lapse in concentration, Harlequins allowed Gloucester to run up the wing unchallenged until 10 metres from the try-line. They earned advantage and attempted a cross-field kick. Hook went up against Yarde. The Harlequins no 14 fumbled the ball allowing Hook to ground it. A replay, however, showed Hook to have been offside and ruled ‘no try’ to the relief of all Quins fans.

Play returned for the penalty line-out. Quins prevented the maul from moving forwards and so Gloucester had to run with it. With a grab-and-drive approach they closed in on the try-line. They then recycled the ball and no. 8 Gareth Evans crossed the whitewash for his first ever premiership try. The conversion was added by Laidlaw: Harlequins 18 – 10 Gloucester Rugby after 50 minutes. May returned to the field having served his sin-bin.

The hosts were handed a penalty in front of the posts after Scott strayed offside. Jackson added the three points whilst Marler received treatment (52 minutes).

The restart ball was kicked long; Care box-kicked it back and Gloucester were forced to kick on. The Cherry and Whites were starting to find gaps in the hosts’ defence until they spilled the ball.

Quins’ possession was short lived as a kick for territory landed safely in the waiting arms of the fall-back who ran it straight back.

More misery for the hosts as George Merrick was penalised for a late tackle.

The replacements started for the visitors as McAllister and Evans left the pitch for Thomas and Kvesic. Thrush again switched with Savage for the lock to once again receive treatment to a gash with 25 minutes remaining.

Gloucester kicked for a line-out and formed a maul only to have the ball ripped from their possession. Quins seemed to be panicking and once again kicked for territory but placement was not good allowing the visitors to run it back. They then kicked and Harlequins attempted to run from their own half. Care box-kicked to ‘boos’ until Hook knocked-on whilst trying to gather the ball.

More replacements for Gloucester as Hibbard and Twelvetrees were substituted by Matu’u and Symons. 23 minutes left.

Scrum to Quins and Care sent the ball to the centre before it found its way out to the wing. A sloppy pass bounced off Brown and play was brought back to the collapse of the scrum. Jackson kicked for the corner. Buchanan delivered the ball to Matthews. It was then sent out for Marchant to power his way over the whitewash for his brace of tries.

Jackson added the conversion: Harlequins 28 – 10 Gloucester Rugby after 60 minutes.

The restart ball eventually found touch and play resumed with a line-out to Gloucester in the hosts’ half. Possession was stolen and kicked away; Gloucester returned the ball long and a nervous Brown once again found himself isolated. He held himself long enough for back-up to arrive but possession was lost inside the 22.

Gloucester calmed their play with grab-and-drive before releasing their wingers; fall-back James Hook crossed for a try and this time it was not rescinded.

Laidlaw was on form today and added the conversion: Harlequins 28 – 17 Gloucester Rugby. It was his last play of the game, being replaced by no. Heinz with 17 minutes left.

Gloucester attempted to run from deep before they box-kicked. The high ball was secured well by Quins. The forwards attempted to make an impact and Care box-kicked on. Gloucester came again.

They passed well between themselves and made their way up the wing once again. Visser made a try-saving tackle just metres from the try-line.

Purdy replaced Sharples for Gloucester with 14 minutes remaining; Harlequins’ Visser departed for Alofa Alofa.

The Cherry and Whites then earned a line-out but a scrum was awarded to Quins following a knock-on.

Quins secured the scrum and Care found touch with his box-kick. May took a quick line-out but not even his own team were prepared for it, fumbling the ball backwards. They gathered the ball and made strides forward but Quins were not ready to let them come again and earned a free-kick to the corner.

They secured line-out ball but it was deemed not to have been thrown straight. A missed opportunity.

Gloucester kicked for a line-out on the half-way line.

Harlequins meanwhile replaced Buchanan with Dave Ward just 10 minutes left.

They secured the ball and earned a penalty which was taken quickly. Clifford was penalised for an illegal entry into the ruck and was shown yellow meaning Quins had to see out the game with 14 men.

Gloucester kicked for the corner, secured line-out ball and Matu’u crossed for a try. Billy Burns added a difficult conversion: Harlequins 28 – 24 Gloucester Rugby 8 minutes remaining.

The restart was kicked long; Gloucester sent the ball high which was gathered well by Brown. Quins attempted to keep ball in hand and passed to Brown who sent the ball high. Gloucester fumbled the gathering but kept possession.

Another penalty to the Cherry and Whites after an infringement by Marler; they kicked for a line-out.

Following injury at this late stage of the game Chisholm made way for Naoupu with 5 minutes remaining.

Gloucester were attacking with intensity until they knocked-on. Scrum to Harlequins inside their own 22.

The ball was hooked out but was overturned by a fast-acting replacement scrum-half. Quins overturned the ball themselves and found touch. It was still dangerous territory.

They secured line-out ball and attempted a cross-field kick; possession was stolen by Harlequins who ran the wing up to the half-way line. They then kicked from the ruck but with little distance Gloucester came again. The visitors were awarded a penalty and with less than a minute to go they had to go for a line-out. This was going down to the wire.

Line-out to Gloucester on the 22. They gathered well and formed a rolling maul.

The clock went dead as Gloucester sent it to the middle. Harlequins captain Danny Care intercepted the pass (from a possible off-side position) but too eagerly kicked for touch; and in a repeat of the disaster against Northampton Saints the ball fell short.

Gasps were audible as Gloucester gathered and ran the ball once again. They passed to the far wing where they were tackled into touch, finally ending the game.

Full Time at Twickenham Stadium: Harlequins 28 – 24 Gloucester Rugby

Jack Clifford was named Man of the Match in front of a packed stadium: 75,500 attendance.

Next up: Harlequins travel to Worcester Warriors in the premiership.
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 10:26 pm  

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