Friday, 15th December 2017 @ 19:45
Harlequins scored four tries but were outplayed in a 52-24 rout away to Ulster Rugby in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
It was all Ulster in the opening exchanges before young Marcus Smith dragged his side back into the encounter with a try and an assist for Charlie Walker, as they went into the break down just 16-12.
A rampant Ulster dominated much of the second half however as five tries in the second spell easily cancelled out scores from Ross Chisholm and Dave Ward as the Londoners fell 52-24 in Belfast.
Earlier, Harlequins arrived at the Kingspan on a cold Belfast night, but one that pales into comparison to the near Arctic conditions last week at The Stoop.
The Londoners had dropped their first three European Rugby Champions Cup matches and they trailed early as the Ulstermen dominated the opening 15 minutes. They hoarded almost all the possession and territory and were rewarded with a pair of John Cooney penalties and a 6-0 lead.
Against the run of play however the powerful Renaldo Bothma snatched an intercept on half way and Marcus Smith was soon on hand to complete the counter attack. His conversion attempt drifted wide from the sideline.
The home side struck back almost immediately with a try of their own. Some decent Quins defence forced Christian Lealifano to chip over the top with nothing particularly on, but the luck of the Irish saw the ball bounce fortuitously to Stuart McCloskey to regather and score.
With a quarter of the match played and Harlequins trailing in all the key stats, including the 13-5 scoreboard, they finally began to enforce themselves on Ulster and found themselves in the right area of the pitch.
Patient build-up play saw Charlie Walker go close in the corner before he touched down a few minutes later. A sensational Smith break starting the attack before the young fly-half’s inside ball finished it.
Cooney kicked a penalty with the clock winding down but it was game on with Quins trailing just 16-12 at the break.
The second half however started like the first as the home side got off to a flying start.
A Craig Gilroy try and another Cooney penalty saw the lead go to double digits, before the electric Charlie Piutau went over in the 56th minute to see the score line balloon to 31-12 as the match looked out of reach.
Before the hour mark Quins pulled one back after a piece of individual brilliance by Ross Chisholm, who went over from 30 metres when there was seemingly nothing on. But only minutes later Kyle Sinckler was shown a yellow card for taking a man out without the ball and the encounter was all but done.
Ulster immediately exploited the man advantage to set up an Alan O'Connor try, before Cooney kicked the conversion to make it 38-17.
Stand in captain Dave Ward picked up the bonus point try for John Kingston’s side after Ulster over-committed at the breakdown and the flanker went clean through the ruck almost untouched, but it was too little, too late.
Cooney capped off his incredible week with a try of his own, before Andrew Trimble scored after the buzzer as a dominant Ulster put 50 on the Londoners.
Harlequins had to settle with just a try bonus point as they were convincingly outplayed en route to a 52-24 loss in Round 4 of the Champions Cup.
Harlequins will now have a much appreciated break from European rugby as they return to the Aviva Premiership with a number of key clashes on the horizon.
First they play Newcastle Falcons away next Saturday 23rd December (kick-off 15:00) before Big Game 10 in just over two weeks' time. Tickets for the match are available now and be purchased by clicking here.