Friday, 24th February 2017 @ 22:40
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Harlequins led at half-time but Leicester Tigers fought back to record an 18-27 win at The Stoop.
An Alofa Alofa try, plus penalties to Nick Evans and Ruaridh Jackson, gave Harlequins a deserved 13-3 lead at the break in front of a capacity crowd.
The visitors came out of the break dominant, however, as they scored 24 unanswered points. Dave Ward scored a consolation try after time was up but Harlequins fell to their first home loss in the Aviva Premiership this season.
Harlequins came into the fixture just one place behind Leicester on the Aviva Premiership table and were looking to bounce back from a disappointing 12-22 loss away to Bath last week.
They hadn’t lost to Leicester at home since the 2012 season but it was the visitors who came out on top dominating possession and territory in the opening quarter en route to a 0-3 lead.
Harlequins eventually began to click into gear led by the wonderful attack of Alofa and fullback Aaron Morris who were causing the Tigers' defence trouble when they had ball in hand.
Quins were rewarded, first with a Nick Evans penalty, before Alofa scored fortuitously in the corner to take the lead. The Samoan winger benefitting from a Matt Hopper grubber that bounced off the corner flag into his hands.
Evans missed the conversion, and was soon replaced by Jackson after picking up yet another unlucky injury, this time to his shoulder.
Quins got back on top of the penalty count after struggling in that department early on, and with only three minutes left in the half Jackson made it 13-3 with a kick from right in front of the posts. Harlequins coming up with points on all three trips into the Tigers' 22.
They took the 13-3 lead into half-time but it was Tigers who roared out of the blocks after the break. Immediately on top in the early exchanges before scrum-half Sam Harrison powered over from close range to close the gap to 13-10.
Five minutes later the match turned completely in Leicester’s favour. Playing with a penalty advantage, Freddie Burns kicked across field for Adam Thompstone who was taken out in the air by Morris. The fullback was shown a yellow card, and crucially Tigers were also rewarded a penalty try that gave them a 13-17 lead.
With all the momentum, as well as the man advantage, Leicester swarmed down field time and time again. First extending the lead with a second Burns penalty before the fly-half put the match to bed with an intercept try just as Morris re-entered the field.
Try as they might, Harlequins could not get back into the match as they trailed by two scores, 13-27.
They continued to fight until the end, looking for at least a losing bonus point and in the 74th minute then went within a few metres of getting one. Magical footwork by Joe Marchant saw him break from his own 22 and then setting up Marland Yarde and Morris to stream down field before the visitors cleaned up just in front of their own line.
The remainder of the match would take place down that end of the field as Quins hammered away at the whitewash. They racked up penalty after penalty that eventually saw replacement Luke Hamilton sin binned.
On the final play of the match, Dave Ward scored from the back of the maul to set up a sideline conversion attempt for Jackson that could seal a losing bonus point. Under pressure from a charging Leicester side, the kick was pushed wide and Harlequins fell 18-27 to their Aviva Premiership rivals. A disappointing ending to a match that had promised so much at the break.
Harlequins now travel to Gloucester who sit only three points back on the table, with a match to play. Top six the focus now as top four has slipped away.