Saturday, 10th January 2015 @ 18:00
In a high tempo, composed and clinical performance, The Stoop crowd was treated to 80 minutes of thrilling rugby including four tries from Danny Care, Jack Clifford, Marland Yarde and Tim Swiel, to secure a vital bonus point victory against Leicester.
Harlequins’ defence was monumental throughout the match, forcing turnovers and earning penalties to keep the pressure on the Tigers and preventing the East Midlands side from crossing their try line.
In Nick Easter’s 250th appearance, the number 8 was indispensable in the loose along with stellar performances from fellow back rowers Chris Robshaw and Clifford.
Earlier in the week, Director of Rugby Conor O’Shea said how Harlequins had turned a corner coming into the new year and this performance proved it.
In the second minute, a break from Graeme Kitchener deep in Quins’ half, down the middle of the field, led to a penalty against Harlequins for holding on, allowing fly-half Owen Williams an easy shot at goal to put the Tigers 0-3 up.
Seven minutes later, a penalty against Quins at the scrum allowed Williams another kick at goal to extend the lead to 0-6 inside the first ten minutes.
Quins were soon to record their first points when Tom Youngs was penalised for coming in at the side allowing Ben Botica to slot over a kick to half the damage on the score board.
From a Leicester lineout, Tigers were awarded another penalty which was successfully converted by Williams to make the score 3-9. With possession swapping from one side to the other in stop start patches, the game then began to find its fluidity as Harlequins found their rhythm and style.
In a try-less first quarter, after exposing a period of pressure on to the visitors, play was worked into the Tigers’ 22. Easter’s offload found Care and the scrum-half darted forward, breaking a tackle and showing great strength to stumble over the try line despite the covering tackle from Adam Thompstone. Botica added the conversion and Quins were well in their stride.
With three minutes to go to half-time, a quick tap penalty from Care, allowed possession to be passed through the hands of the midfield to the left of the posts, where Clifford stepped inside the pursuing defence to ground the ball on the try line with one hand.
This made the score 15-9 going into half-time.
If the first-half hadn’t provided enough excitement for the Twickenham Stoop faithful, the second delivered more in abundance as Quins came out firing on all cylinders.
Five minutes into the half, a Leicester clearing kick was collected by Easter who spun a pass to Yarde inside his own half. The winger then provided brilliant vision to scathe through the Leicester defence untouched to dive over the try line.
A brief consultation was made with the TMO to check obstruction had not occurred and referee Luke Pearce awarded the try with Botica adding the conversion to make the score 22-9.
Botica, making his first start since returning from injury, kicked over another three points on 50 minutes to put Quins well in control at 25-9.
After a Williams penalty two minutes later brought the score to 25-12, the visitors were not to score another point with Quins displaying heroic defence.
After dangerous breaks from Mathew Tait and Miles Benjamin on two separate occasions, turnovers were won by Robshaw whose work rate was unfaltering throughout the match.
With 18 seconds left on the clock, a scrum was awarded to Quins and replacement Joe Trayfoot came away with the ball. The flanker was tackled and from the ground released Mike Brown through a gap and the full back broke deep into Leicester’s 22.
The England international then skilfully offloaded to replacement fly-half Swiel who dove over to the left of the posts to secure the bonus point try with The Stoop crowd erupting in cheers of appreciation for truly entertaining rugby.
Botica converted with the last act of the game to make the score 32-12 and round off an incredible team performance to place Harlequins firmly in the fight for a play-off spot.