Stade Francais ended NEC Harlequins six-match unbeaten run at the Stoop with an emphatic 26-0 victory in the second round, first leg match in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup. After dominating both possession and territory in the opening 40 minutes, Quins failed to register any points on the board; a problem that continued throughout the second half.
Stade scored two tries in the match, one in either half, through full back Arthur Gomes and centre Brian Liebenberg, and take a healthy advantage into the second leg in Paris this Saturday (14th December 2002).
Playing with the wind behind them, it was the home side who seemed destined to open the scoring inside the first five minutes. Nathan Williams chipped downfield, forcing Stade winger Christophe Dominici to run the ball into touch close to his own line. The Quins pack drove forward from the resulting lineout, but knocked-on possession just metres from the line. Ace Tiatia and Williams then both went close to scoring, but the Stade defence held-out as the game went into the second quarter.
On 28 minutes and against the run of play, the visitors scored the opening try of the match. Ironically, the score came following a wonderful break from Will Greenwood. Slicing through a gap in the midfield, the Quins fly half opted for a long pass out to Rob Jewell on the left wing. However, the ball went to ground and Dominic kicked downfield. Stade won possession and after flanker Remy Martin was held-up, Gomes forced his way over for the try. Diego Dominguez converted to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Quins were immediately back on the attack following the restart as Dominguez knock-on inside his own twenty-two, but once again they failed to make any impression on the scoreboard. With the game in first half injury time and play deep inside the Quins half, Greenwood was penalised for being offside. Dominguez made no mistake in converting the penalty and Stade had a 10-point advantage at the interval.
Three minutes after the break and Liebenberg went over for the second try of the afternoon. Scrum half Jerome Fillol took play into the Quins twenty-two with a fine probing kick and flanker Christophe Moni stole possession from the Quins throw into the lineout. The pack drove forward before the ball went through the backs, where Liebenberg crashed over from close range to score by the posts. Dominguez comfortably added the two extra points on offer and Stade were three scores clear (17-0).
Dominugez had the opportunity to increase the lead on 47 minutes, but he pushed a penalty attempt to the right of the target. However, the Italian fly half made amends just six minutes later after Tiatia was penalised for holding on in the tackle.
Quins rallied briefly after this but never really threatened the Stade line. Williams made a fine break off a pass from Tony Diprose that took play into the Stade twenty-two, but it was the visitors who ended the game the stronger in the last ten minutes.
Dominguez saw a drop goal attempt fall short of the target but Liebenberg then converted a penalty on the halfway line after Quins were offside at a lineout. Dominguez then completed the scoring a minute before full time, by kicking his third penalty of the match, with Jim Evans being penalised for the home side for holding on in the tackle.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.