Welsh Capital side Cardiff were the first to strike at The Stoop after an uncharacteristically rusty start from Quins, with fullback Cam Winnett diving through a hole in the Quins defence to claim the opening score. Scrum-half Tomos Williams added the extras for a strong start for the travelling side.
Quins replied five minutes later through veteran scrum-half Danny Care. Sparking the play, fly-half Marcus Smith attacked the line, using fast hands to break down the Cardiff defence and feed openside Jack Kenningham, who managed to free his arms from the tackle to send Care over for the score. Smith added the extras to make it seven-all.
A double blow for Cardiff, with Wales and British and Irish Lions wing Josh Adams shown a yellow card for a no arms tackle that sent Quins fullback Tyrone Green spinning through the air in the build-up to Care's score.
Despite being down a man, Cardiff retook their lead through openside James Botham, with the back row muscling over from short range after Cardiff enjoyed prime field position with a scrum five metres out. No conversion this time, but the visitors were back in the lead.
The two sides continued exchanging blow for blow. This time, an outstanding score sparked and finished by Smith brought the supporters back on their feet. Smith spotted a gap in the Cardiff defence within his own half, searing through the line and sprinting 30 metres before feeding number eight Alex Dombrandt. Dombrandt gained ten metres before sending the ball back to Smith who scuttled the final 20 metres almost untouched to take Quins ahead for the first time of the afternoon.
Quins opted for a touch of pragmatism as the half-hour mark beckoned, with Smith kicking a penalty to take his side ahead by five points, at 17-12.
Cardiff were not content to allow Quins to run riot unchecked, however. Against the run of play and as Harlequins threatened to break the line or score from almost every attack, Cardiff wing Theo Cabango spotted a chance to hit an opening down the left touchline and tore his way down Quins’ left flank, stepping his final man to finish an impressive individual score. No conversion again for Cardiff, bringing the score level at half-time.
Quins struggled to capitalise on their momentum in the second half, with a handful of promising moments eventually coming to nothing. However, after Cardiff conceded consecutive penalties within their own half, Quins were able to launch a number of close-range attacks, with Dombrandt the man to eventually roll away from defenders’ attentions to claim Quins’ third try of the day. A 100% success rate for the afternoon so far for Smith as he made Dombrandt’s score worth the full seven. Quins 24, Cardiff 17.
Quins secured the bonus point in the 63rd minute. With Cardiff’s defence now truly on the back foot, Quins pulled the Welsh defence from one side of the pitch to the other, eventually creating enough space down the left wing for Smith to send a gentle kick pass to wing Joe Marchant, who touched down for the all-important bonus-point score. Smith nailed yet another hard touchline conversion to bring Quins 14 points ahead of Cardiff with 15 minutes to play.
With the floodgates now seemingly open, Dombrandt secured his brace, and the Star of the Match Award, just five minutes later. Quins set up a monstrous driving maul deep in their opposition’s half, driving and twisting to secure the score. No conversion from Smith this time.
The Londoners finished the day with five tries in all, with powerful Springbok centre Andre Esterhuizen running a hard line to ram his way past Cardiff defenders. A final Marcus Smith kick of the day took Quins to 43 points. Smith and co had looked to finish the day on a cool half-century of points, but a Louis Lynagh try in the 79th minute was called back for a knock-on.
A strong start for Harlequins to their European campaign, with two wins from two as the side head into Big Game on Monday, December 27 as they host Northampton Saints in the Gallagher Premiership at Twickenham Stadium.
Final score: Harlequins 43 – 17 Cardiff Rugby
Next match: Harlequins vs Northampton Saints. Monday, December 27. 17:00 kick-off.