Saturday, 5th November 2016 @ 20:10
Harlequins opened their Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign with a 29-15 win at The Stoop after fighting back from a deficit at the hour mark.
A try to the debutant Aaron Morris, and two penalties to Nick Evans, gave Harlequins an 11-5 lead at the break but a flurry of injury replacements would see them relinquish their lead.
An Elvis Taione try gave Exeter Chiefs the lead but he was soon shown a yellow card in what would cause a major momentum shift. Another Evans penalty and tries to Charlie Walker and Luc Jones were enough to see Harlequins run out 29-15 winners.
Earlier Harlequins kicked off their Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign in chilly conditions at The Stoop but an early counter attack from the home side got the crowd quickly on their feet. Alofa Alofa with a break on the left wing only to be taken out after he had chipped ahead.
In the sixth minute a long period of sustained pressure allowed Nick Evans to slot home an easy penalty and get his side on the scoreboard but it was soon followed by controversy.
Mat Luamanu, who had been hungry in the opening spell, put a huge hit on Will Hooley but Referee Craig Evans sent it upstairs to the TMO.
While captain Dave Ward appealed saying that Hooley had dipped into the tackle making it a high shot, Evans disagreed and showed Luamanu a yellow card.
Harlequins, feeling hard done by, halted an Exeter attack to keep them scoreless and then a piece of Charlie Walker magic set up a score down the other end.
The wing, with an electric turn of pace on halfway, broke the line and set up Aaron Morris to score on his senior debut. While Nick Evans couldn’t add the extras Harlequin held an early 8-0 lead.
Exeter would answer back thanks to wing James Short, whose dancing feed found him enough space on the left touchline to score on the 18th minute. Evans kicked his second penalty five minutes later.
The remainder of the half was a cagey affair with Harlequins making few chances, but their defence kept their lead intact as they went into the break 11-5 up.
In the second half the sides would exchange penalties early but Harlequins' hard work was undone by a series of injury replacements. Alofa Alofa, Ross Chisholm and Joe Marchant all came off leaving Harlequins with five halves in their backline (Evans, James Lang, Ruaridh Jackson, Charlie Mulchrone and Luc Jones).
The makeshift backline took a while to adjust and Exeter got themselves into the lead following a succession of penalties leading to an Elvis Taione try from the maul.
With an hour on the clock, and Harlequins trialing by a point, the momentum would turn back in the home side’s favour. Taione was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements by the Chiefs forwards leading to a Nick Evans penalty that helped them retake the lead.
With their tails up the young Harlequins side began to click led by the two Charlies on the wings. Charlie Mulchrone making some spectacular tackles and breaks, while Charlie Walker broke the game wide open with a hand in two scores.
On the 68th minute Man of the Match Evans gave Walker a lovely inside ball to score from close range before the flyer made another break to set up Luc Jones to score under the posts on his debut.
Both sides would have more opportunities in a frantic final five minutes but an entertaining match was finally brought to a close with Harlequins running out 29-15 victors.
Harlequins sit atop of their Anglo-Welsh pool after the first round, the only side to pick up a win. They now prepare to travel to Swansea to play Ospreys next Friday night.