Thursday, 12th November 2015 @ 19:45
Finding themselves facing a 3-12 deficit after half an hour, Harlequins stormed back to record a memorable 41-18 victory over Montpellier in the opening match of the 2015/16 European Rugby Challenge Cup.
The French side were absolutely dominant in the opening 30 minutes and the boot of Benoit Paillaugue gave them a deserved 3-12 lead. Harlequins however struck back twice before half time with tries to Luke Wallace and Nick Easter giving them a slender 15-12 advantage.
The second half wouldn’t prove so close as the home side shot out of the blocks with another two close range tries before the backs ripped the game wide open stunning the visitors with a 41-18 bonus point win.
Pre-match it was all eyes on opposition coach Jake White who had become the media’s frontrunner to replace Stuart Lancaster as Head Coach of England. And it was his side who started the better, dominating the set piece in wet and windy conditions.
While scrum-half Paillaugue would miss his first attempt at goal his forwards continuously earned him chances and he would knock over three unanswered penalties before Nick Evans pulled one back for the home side.
Trailing 3-9 Harlequins had little momentum and in the 26th minute Montpellier once again won a penalty at the scrum to extend their lead to 3-12.
It was at this stage the match would turn, slowly and discreetly at first. Quins finally managed to spend some time in the opposition 22 and were rewarded as Luke Wallace barrelled over from close range – shifting the momentum in the process.
Following a yellow card to Mikheil Nariashvilli for cynical play, Harlequins took the lead thanks to a Nick Easter effort, again from the back of a close range maul. Following Evans conversion the Londoners led 15-12, a lead that they would take into the break.
In a similar fashion to last week they would come roaring out of the sheds and immediately made an impact on the scoreboard. A third try from a rolling maul, and a third try to a back row, this time to Jack Clifford. Evans converted for the 22-12 lead and his 2,000th point as a Harlequin.
Montpellier would answer back with their fifth penalty of the night before Danny Care darted over to give Quins the bonus point and a 27-15 lead after 57 minutes. Quite the turnaround from the nine point deficit they faced less than half an hour earlier,
Montpellier would score with a sixth penalty but again Harlequins would answer back almost immediately. Marland Yarde, with little space or support, counter attacked with a chip over the defence, which he would recover before the ball found its way through four sets of Quins hands as Ollie Lindsay-Hague would score under the posts with his first touch of the ball after being subbed on for Tim Visser.
Harlequins led 34-18 but they didn’t relent. In the 77th minute another replacement would score, this time Chris Robshaw completing a back row box set as all four picked up tries on the evening. Three minutes later they almost scored their seventh only for Referee Ian Davies to rule interference in the build up.
The final score was 41-18 and it will long live in the memories of those in attendance, a small crowd on the wet Thursday night, but one that roared with delight at the impressive performance
Harlequins next travel to Cardiff a week from today and will look to pick up their fifth victory of this young season as they take on Cardiff Blues in Round 2 of the Challenge Cup..