07 Mar 14
Mike Brown speaks to Simon Ward of the RFU.com podcast ahead of this weekend's clash against Wales and discusses his personal message from Manchester United legend Peter Schmeichel.
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Quins v L Irish
Harlequins v London Irish
London Irish (H)
29/03/2014, KO 15:00
Sat 29th Mar 14
AVIVA Premiership Rugby
L Irish 18-13 Quins
L W W L W
L Irish Form
W W W L L
By outscoring the home team by two tries to one the Londoners proved that despite the toll of international call-ups and injuries, the squad still has the belief in the way they are committed to playing the game.
That belief was evident right from the kick-off as Harlequins took the game to the home team despite the testing conditions that had followed the team bus up the M1. Strong winds accompanied by heavy showers made handling difficult and turned long range kicking into a lottery.
Playing with the wind, Harlequins dominated territory and possession for two-thirds of the opening period. The characteristic adventure, hallmarked by tempo and pace, alternating between attacking back play with the backs moving the ball at pace through hands to the tireless carrying by the forwards, stretched and upset the home team.
At the heart of the action was Danny Care once again proving what a multi-talented scrum-half he is. When he was not sniping at the breakdown or base of scrum, he was looking for the gaps in the home defence.
He had willing support throughout the backs where Tim Molenaar impressed on his debut. The New Zealander used his physical presence to telling effect and deservedly earned his "Man of the Match" award.
The opening score in the eighth minute came against the run of play when Owen Williams kicked a penalty after Harlequins were penalised for not releasing at a ruck.
Tigers went further ahead in the 18th minute when the visitors were penalised at the scrum. Williams confidently sending the ball between the uprights from 40 metres.
The Harlequins'scrum was targeted by the home team as an area of weakness and they applied pressure winning a series of free kicks and penalties as the game progressed. However, that was the only area were the Tigers enjoyed any consistent ascendancy.
In broken field play the threat posed by Ed Slater, Julian Salvi and Jordan Crane was neutralised by the intensity and courage with which Harlequins defended.
Nick Evans opened the scoring for his team with a penalty after Salvi was sin-binned for killing the ball as Harlequins launched wave after wave of attack on the Tigers' five metre line.
The home team was to pay a high price for Salvi's absence as another attack spearheaded by the heroic Tom Guest including Molenaar and Evans threatened. In the final minute of the half another Harlequins' attack involving a sequence of pick-and -go moves by the forwards saw Nick Easter force a touchdown just by the posts. Evans added the extras to give his team a half-time lead of 6-10.
The visitors had the ideal start to the second period when another break by Guest cut through the home defence, he passed to Luke Wallace who found Matt Hopper speeding in off his wing at an angle that caught the home defence cold. Evans kicked the conversion to stretch his team's lead to 17-6.
Williams reduced the lead three minutes later with his third successful penalty kick. That prompted a period of relentless attack spearheaded by Tigers' formidable back row.
The visitors' defence had to be alert as Niall Morris and Adam Thompstone combined at pace and threatened down the left wing before the latter was bundled into touch by Charlie Walker.
The arrival of Steve Mafi for Tigers in the 60th minute appeared to inspire the Harlequins pack as George Robson, Joe Trayfoot, Easter and Guest worked tirelessly in defence time and again nullifying the physical threat coming at them. The effectiveness of their efforts could be seen on the scoreboard where Tigers couldn't add to their nine points.
It was the visitors who next troubled the scorekeeper when Evans kicked his second penalty in the 64th minute after the home team were penalised for coming in from the side.
Evans stretched the lead with his third penalty in the 72nd minute after Logovi'l Munipola was caught offside.
That was the trigger for a frenetic last eight minutes as Tigers threw everything bar the kitchen sink at Harlequins. Courageous defence held them out until the 79th minute when a sequence of three collapsed scrums resulted in Referee Wigglesworth awarding the home team a penalty try which Williams converted to leave the final score 16-23 in favour of an outstanding Harlequins team.