17 May 13
Harlequins has confirmed an exciting group of pre-season fixtures as it prepares for the start of the 2013-14 season.
With the cold settling into December, it felt as though an arctic storm could have hit Twickenham on Friday night and still the Stoop would have been packed with eager fans, locked into a fervour of anticipation. The reward? Harlequins' biggest test of their, so far, monumental season.
This was as big as it gets at this stage of the season. The Midas touch of the Harlequins up against the 15 (multi-cap) headed, all conquering Hydra that is the four-time Heineken Cup winning leviathan Toulouse. Their riches are indeed legendary but, whilst the golden prize hangs tantalisingly off in the distance of 2012, these would have been bejewelled scalps that would adorn any collection on the path to ultimate glory.
However, if you are going to lose your first game, then there is no shame in doing so to, arguably, the best club side in the Northern Hemisphere.
Toulouse would have got the scoreboard on the move after the first five minutes but for a technical glitch, but the official score-sheet read 0-3 after former All Black, Luke McAlister, slotted his first penalty attempt of the day.
Five minutes later and McAlister's Kiwi adversary, Nick Evans, evened the numbers after Toulouse were caught offside in defence. Honours even then, but Quins seemed to be the side under more pressure against a French side boasting a vast array of internationals.
The Quins defence held strong though against the expected savage French attack, but despite some strong tackling, something had to give as the ball moved its way deftly through Toulouse hands for Matanavou to score in the left hand corner on 18 minutes. McAlister missed the conversion. 3-8.
Three minutes later, Quins hands in the ruck offered McAlister another pop at the posts which, sadly for the hopeful Quins fans, he failed to miss. 3-11
Toulouse kept the pressure on the Quins line, but the home defence remained resolute. Some promising Quins runs kept Toulouse guessing, but the French side were no strangers to defending themselves, forcing errors and doing more than enough to hold the London side out.
Half Time: 3-11
Ugo Monye replaced Sam Smith for the second half, having an impact early on with his kick and chase, forcing Toulouse to knock on giving Quins a scrum in the Toulouse 22.
Joe Gray replaced Chris Brooker on 48 minutes.
Quins maintained some early pressure in the half and, 10 minutes in, a tap and go penalty from Danny Care found the ball on its way to Mike Brown for a touch down in the left hand corner. Nick Evans converted to bring Quins to within one point. 10-11
McAlister took the chance to pull Toulouse a little further away with a penalty on 56 minutes, and two minutes later home fans' hearts were in their mouths when Matanavou chased a kicked through ball to the line, to be narrowly beaten by Mike Brown who touched down for a Toulouse five metre scrum.
Mark Lambert replaced Joe Marler, who was stretchered off on 64 minutes.
Toulouse made life more difficult for Quins on 65 minutes when Matanavou scored the French side's second try, again in the left hand corner. The video ref was called on after Mike Brown's brave tackle, but any Quins hopes were dashed when he merely affirmed what Matanavou already knew.
Had McAlister missed the conversion, Quins may have had the chance, after another score, to go for last minute drop goal glory, but sadly the Kiwi proved accurate again to pull his side 11 points clear. 10-21.
Sadly, it was a road too far for Quins and, despite putting in some threatening runs, they did not trouble the scorers again. Luke Wallace came on for Fa'asavalu on 68 minutes, and Brooker returned for an injured Gray as the clock hit 80 minutes for the last scrum of the game.
If you haven't already bought your tickets for LV= Big Game 4 (Quins V Saracens) at Twickenham on Tuesday 27th December, make sure you do!
Harlequins remain committed to delivering this fantastic event at great value with tickets starting from £5 for children and £10 for adults, making it an affordable family day out.
|Harlequins Score Card|
|Toulouse Score Card|