Saturday, 23rd September 2017 @ 18:00
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Harlequins and Leicester Tigers went back and forth in an action-packed encounter at The Stoop, but the home side had to settle for a losing bonus point after falling 28-31.
Three Marcus Smith penalties kept the scores close in a gritty first half but Quins went into the break trailing 9-11 to a powerful Tigers outfit.
Quick tries to Danny Care and Mat Luamanu saw the Londoners roar back in the second half as the lead swung back and forth. Alofa Alofa also crossed the whitewash for Quins before a late George Ford penalty was enough for Leicester to go home with thrilling 28-31 win.
Harlequins arrived back home after an impressive win away to second placed Wasps and they were looking to make it three wins on the spin in the Aviva Premiership.
They got off to a fast start and took a 3-0 lead in the fourth minute thanks to a penalty from Marcus Smith. The young fly-half, fresh off a man of the match performance last weekend as well as a call up to Eddie Jones’ England training camp, was playing like a seasoned veteran as he ran the quartered backline.
Leicester however were dominating the set piece, and importantly the penalty count. They soon levelled the scores with three points of their own before the sensational Telusa Veainu scored the first try of a extraordinary afternoon.
While on top for large spells Tigers fell behind before the half hour mark as Smith kicked six more points. Leicester though would go into the break with a deserved lead as Ford kicked a penalty from right in front to make is 9-11 in the 38th minute.
It was a frustrating opening 40 minutes for the home side as missed line outs and a faltering scrum never allowed them to take a grip of the encounter but this changed almost immediately into the second spell.
A Tigers scrum on halfway quickly turned into a Quins break down the left wing and after being forced to kill the ball the visitors were penalised just out from their own line. Sensing an opportunity, Danny Care quick tapped and sniped his way over the line for a 16-11 lead.
Three minutes later Harlequins got their second. This time Marland Yarde made a break on the opposite wing and offloaded in the tackle to Mat Luamanu. The big back row showing a turn of pace as he ran in from 30 metres out. A stunning passage of play that took the lead out to 21-11 as the home crowd roared with approval.
In a frantic second half Quins were ravaged by injuries as Charlie Walker, Marcus Smith, Rob Buchanan and Chris Robshaw all went off the field. They were joined on the side-lines by props Will Collier and Ellis Genge who were both shown yellow cards as Referee Ian Tempest grew tired of the scrum penalties (sitting at eight and a free kick by this stage).
With the big ball carriers in the bin, Tigers made use of the extra space as they ran in two tries in three minutes also. The first to Jonny May, his fourth of the season, before replacement front row Greg Bateman powered over after a stunning run. With both conversions successful, Quins suddenly trailed 21-25.
There was more action to follow for The Stoop faithful however as Alofa Alofa, in his first appearance of the season, crossed following a delightful delayed pass from Care and Quins had their tails up once again.
The lead did not last long as Ford levelled the scores with his third penalty in the 66th minute before his fourth gave his side a 28-31 with just seven minutes to play.
With the momentum on their side Tigers attacked down field again, looking for a bonus point try and also a score to deny Quins a losing bonus point of their own. The home side were valiant in defence however and turned the ball over on their own line.
With two minutes to play they had a final chance to snatch a win, but 95 metres away from the try line it was always going to be an uphill battle. While they strung together a number of phases they failed to get out of their own 22 and Leicester held on for the win.
A disappointing loss for John Kingston’s side but he will be impressed with the attitude and commitment of his side even as they lost bodies throughout the enconter.
They now prepare for an away trip to Northampton Saints next Saturday before a home fixture against Sale Sharks on Friday 6th October. Tickets for the latter encounter are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.