Saturday, 17th February 2018 @ 17:40
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A strong second half performance from Leicester Tigers confined Harlequins to defeat at Welford Road. Tigers held a slender one-point lead at half-time but a 23-point haul from Matt Toomua saw off Quins with a chance at the top four slipping away.
Harlequins did cross twice in the second half through Luke Wallace and Charlie Matthews, but a late penalty and an even later Adam Thompstone try ensured Harlequins left Welford Road empty-handed.
Earlier, Harlequins arrived at The Stoop off the back of a 22-44 drubbing at the hands of Wasps the week prior. Quins were slow at getting out the blocks last week but found themselves five points ahead within just three minutes. Off turnover ball, Aaron Morris was allowed to break through the Tigers midfield and the fullback opted to go outside to Alofa Alofa who went over in the corner.
With the try scored, Tigers kicked into life with the unlikely source of Greg Bateman looking sharp with ball in hand, constantly breaking the line.
Tigers reduced the deficit when Kyle Sinckler was found to infringe with Tigers stringing together a number of phases metres out. Toomua sent over the first three of his eventual 23 points on the 14th minute and moved his side into the lead four minutes later with a routine penalty; given Marcus Smith had missed his earlier conversion attempt.
From there, both sides had the opportunity to pull away with neither taking the chance, through knock-ons and avoidable penalties. Aaron Morris did well to scramble back from Telusa Veainu's grubber before Kyle Sinckler was held up on the line from some exceptional Tigers defence.
Following the break from Roberts, Quins worked it through the forwards and Sinckler hit the line at speed but was kept away from the tryline. From the resulting number of scrums, Quins were gifted the opportunity to go in front and Marcus Smith duly obliged from the easy penalty.
The lead didn't last long however as Quins were reduced to 14-men shortly after as Marcus Smith was given ten minutes in the bin for an offside call. Toomua again sent over the penalty and his side led at the break.
Despite being down to 14, Quins - like they did in the first half - started the brightest. Aaron Morris again looked handy with a break through the Tigers midfield and Harlequins' good work with the ball was rewarded shortly after.
After numerous phases in Tigers' half - predominantly played among the forwards - Morris (in at fly-half) played a long looping pass out wide to Luke Wallace who did well to get over deep on the right-hand side.
From there, Tigers began to work themselves back into the contest. After enjoying a load of possession in Quins' 22, on the hour mark Matt Toomua threw a defence-splitting dummy and raced through the midfield for Tigers' opening try, with the conversion added.
The wind was taken right out of Quins' sail shortly after when Toomua orchestrated Tigers' second. A lofted cross-field kick bamboozled the rushing defenders and Graham Kitchener was allowed to gather the ball and rumble over the line. From almost nowhere Tigers held a ten-point lead.
In a topsy-turvy match, Tigers then began to give away a number of penalties, handing Harlequins a line out five metres out. From a routine move, Charlie Matthews got over the line from the maul; his second try in as many matches for Quins.
With the conversion missed, Harlequins trailed by just five with nine minutes on the clock.
A knock-on from Tigers deep in Quins' 22 looked to be the lifeline John Kingston's side were after to set on the attack in the dying moments but a penalty at the resulting scrum saw Toomua - again - send over the kick to leave Quins eight points behind.
As the clock went red, Harlequins had possession in their own 22 and the chance to get two bonus points had they crossed the line again. However, Adam Thompstone was on hand to intercept and dash over the line to add insult to injury.
Following today's loss, Harlequins are back at The Stoop next Saturday to face Newcastle Falcons (kick-off 14:30). Tickets available at tickets.quins.co.uk or by calling 020 8410 6010.