19 Jun 13
Join Harlequins for their second home friendly against Glasgow Warriors on Saturday 24th August (Kick-off 2.30pm) and experience the newly launched President's Lounge.
Harlequins kicked-off and dominated possession and territory for the first quarter. Playing with patience they maintained an energetic work rate as they tested Zebre in the set pieces and probed their resilient defence. The first scoring opportunity fell to Nick Evans after five minutes but his penalty attempt from 38 metres out on the right drifted narrowly wide of the right upright.
Captain Nick Easter led by example as he ensured his pack kept the home forwards under pressure both in the set piece and the loose providing Danny Care with the opportunity to bring the backs into play. Their ball handling defied the conditions and when they passed with pace and intent, they always threatened.
Evans opened the scoring in the 26th minute with a penalty from 35 metres in front of the posts. From the restart Harlequins were to inflict more damage. Man of the Match Maurie Fa'asavalu drove upfield and in a slick handling move the ball was recycled by James Johnston to Tom Casson to Sam Smith who sped in to touch down in the right corner. Evans added the extras with a superb kick from the right touchline to open up a 10 point lead. On the half-hour Zebre finally threatened in the Harlequins 22 through full back Ruggero Trevisan and captain Gonzalo Garcia who was forced into touch.
On his return from England duty, Danny Care's box-kicking from the base of scrum and ruck regularly created difficulties for the home defence and such was the pressure that the Zebre back row finally tested referee Patterson's patience to the limit resulting in Mauro Bergamasco going to the sin bin in the 32nd minute. It took Harlequins only two minutes to take advantage of his absence, Easter showed gazelle-like speed down the left touchline before passing inside to Casson who sent Sam Smith in for the try in the corner. Another superb conversion by Evans stretched the lead to 17-0.
The home team registered their first points through an interception try by flying winger Leonardo Sarto in the 37th minute, fly half Luciano Orquera kicked the conversion to leave the score 7-17 at the interval. Harlequins continued to dominate territory and possession from the re-start and it took only three minutes before a combination of sound ball carrying and some skilful inter-passing between James Johnston and Fa'asavalu put Easter in for a try on the left. Evans added the conversion.
While Zebre's defensive lineout was holding its own at that set piece, Mike Brown's up and under kicks repeatedly tested the home team's backs. Time and again Brown and Evans tactical kicking secured attacking field positions for their colleagues. With Care continuing to snipe around the base of ruck and scrum the superior skills of the visitors took their toll.
Care himself was unlucky to be prevented from scoring a deserved try when he was stopped just short of the try line in the 54th minute. A series of defensive scrums on the Zebre five metre line which the Harlequins pack dominated brought the bonus point try in the 57th minute, Evans adding the extras from in front of the posts.
Two minutes later Matt Hopper broke down the the right wing and outstripped the defence to score an outstanding individual try in the corner. Once again, Evans converted with a brilliant touchline kick to stretch the lead to 31 points.
As the match entered its final quarter a rash of substitutions by both teams disrupted the flow of the match temporarily. Any relief that the home team may have felt was shot-lived as the pressure returned on a tiring pack resulting in replacement prop Luca Redolfini visiting the sin-bin.
Harlequins opted for the scrum at the resulting penalty and soon had the home pack retreating in disarray leaving the referee no option but to award a second penalty try. Evans kicked the conversion.
With ten minutes remaining there was no let up in the wave after wave of attack by the visitors. Replacement hooker Rob Buchanan found himself out on the right wing finishing off another sweeping move that saw the ball move at bewildering pace from left to right across the pitch following more good work by Fa'asavalu and Karl Dickson. Evans failed with the conversion.
Against the run of play in the 74th minute Zebre's Alberto Chillon touched down under the posts after Matteo Pratichetti had broken out of defence through right midfield. Orquera kicked the conversion. However, the visitors weren't finished, two minutes later a quickly taken tap penalty by Dickson set Ben Botica off on a run through midfield in which he side-stepped two defenders to leave himself with a clear run in to touch down under the posts. He added the conversion to leave the final score 14-57.
Speaking after the match, Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea said, "We are very happy with that performance and the win, however, we need to do exactly the same next week.
"The players want to do well in this tournament and you could tell that by the way they performed today in very difficult conditions and against very physical opponents."
With Connacht beating Biarritz on Friday evening, Harlequins' fate in pool 3 is in their own hands as a victory in next week's return with today's opponents will effectively secure a quarter-final slot.
A final message of thanks goes from the players and management to the hundreds of travelling Harlequins supporters who made the Stadio Aprile XXV feel very much like The Stoop!
|Zebre Score Card|
|Harlequins Score Card|