Saturday, 7th May 2016 @ 00:00
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Harlequins missed out on automatic qualification to next season’s European Rugby Champions Cup after a rampant Exeter Chiefs ran in ten tries in a 24-62 win.
Exeter scored three quick tries in the opening 20 minutes but a Danny Care try on the stroke of halftime gave the home side a chance as they trailed just 10-17 at the break.
In the second half however it was all Chiefs as they ran in a further seven tries thanks to a Jack Nowell hat trick and a James Short brace.
Quins would pull two tries back but succumb to defeat as they finished seventh in the Aviva Premiership table.
The supporters had arrived at a sold out Stoop early in the day to celebrate Conor O’Shea’s final home match.
Both Conor and the crowd knew that qualification into Europe’s most esteemed competition was in their own hands and a win over high flying Exeter would most likely be enough to clinch it.
In the opening few minutes Harlequins had all the possession and Nick Evans turned it into points with a penalty.
The 3-0 lead would quickly evaporate though as an impressive Exeter outfit scored three tries in a brutal fifteen minutes of rugby.
The first two came in a similar fashion as a dominant forward pack hammered away at the Quins line before shipping it out to their wingers, first James Short, then Jack Nowell, as they raced out to a 3-10 lead.
The forward pack would then get one of their own as Dave Ewers barged over from close range. Gareth Steenson kicked his first points of the match to further the gap.
Harlequins struggled to get anything going in attack and were continuously asked questions at the other end. Finally on the 39th minute brave play payed off for the home side.
Winning a penalty at a defensive scrum on their own five metre line, Harlequins kicked for touch. They won the lineout and quickly spread the ball wide to Marland Yarde who beat his man and eventually found Danny Care to score under the posts.
Evans converted and the score was now 10-17 as they home side gave their supporters hope.
That hope was quickly dashed in the second half as they conceded another try in the opening exchanges, with Nowell crossing again.
Minutes later Short crossed for his brace before Nowell completed his hat-trick in the 55th minute. Steenson began to find his rhythm as the score quickly ballooned to 10-36.
As O’Shea began to ring the changes the match looked like it was turning into an exhibition with multiple tries at both ends.
Kyle Sinckler once again scored from the replacements but Exeter would answer with scores from Phil Dollman, Will Chudley and Henry Slade. The match was long over as the score ran out to 17-55.
Winston Stanley would cap off a good performance with a try following a Joe Marchant break but it was too little, too late.
Unsurprisingly Exeter would have the last laugh as Julian Salvi scored their tenth to make it 24-62 as Wayne Barnes blew his whistle on proceedings.
While it was a very disappointing way to end Harlequins’ Aviva Premiership campaign Conor O’Shea will hope his squad shakes it off quickly as they head to Lyon for a European final in just six days’ time.
European rugby has been good to Harlequins this season as they have won six of seven to date and they will look to finish the season on a high with their fourth European Rugby Challenge Cup.