Saturday, 9th April 2016 @ 20:05
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Harlequins will host Grenoble in the European Challenge Cup semi-final after a 38-30 come from behind victory over London Irish at The Stoop.
Tries to Luke Wallace and Danny Care gave Quins an 18-16 first half lead but it was far from comfortable as the Exiles fought them every inch of the way.
In the second spell Irish would snatch a 12 point lead against the run of play, leaving The Stoop crowd nervous with the score at 18-30. Luke Wallace however, would pick up a brace before the captain Danny Care recorded a memorable hat-trick as the home side eventually ran out 38-30 winners.
With Grenoble recording a slim victory in the other quarter final, Harlequins will now face the French side at home in a fortnight’s time.
Earlier in the evening Harlequins came into the match knowing they had beaten Irish three times already this season, once in the league and twice in pre-season, and they got off to the best possible start.
Marland Yarde and George Lowe combined nicely in the midfield to get Harlequins close before a few phases later Yarde would appear again to put Wallace over in the corner.
Irish soon get on the board thanks to a Shane Geraghty penalty as the game was poised at 5-3 with a quarter of the match played.
Tim Visser would be denied by the TMO in the corner before a moment of magic from Care. With a lineout on the halfway line Irish scrum-half Brendan McKibben looked to hit his first receiver but he was a touch too slow and Care anticipated the pass and latched onto an intercept with no one able to touch him as he crossed the whitewash. This time Ben Botica’s kick was successful and Quins led 12-3.
The fly-halves would swap penalties before Irish would get themselves into the game proper. With momentum turned first came a Fergus Mulchrone converted try before Geraghty would give them their first lead with his third penalty.
With only a few minutes left to play in the half Harlequins were desperate for points and they were rewarded with a Botica penalty that gave them a slender 18-16 lead at the break.
It was Irish though who would fly out in the second 40. First with a 12 man driving maul that McKibben would score from, followed by a second as Sean Maitland carved through the Quins defence with a specular 45 metre effort.
The Exile’s two tries came either side of a yellow to David Paice but was enough to give them a 18-30 lead with 55 minutes gone on the clock.
The Maitland score would light a fire under Quins and they bounced back by lifting their tempo. Care would lead the way picking up a brace as they closed the gap and ten minutes later Wallace would also score twice, again from the back of a dominant maul.
Botica’s boot began to misfire as the two tries weren’t enough to take the lead and Quins trailed 28-30 with only ten minutes on the clock. However after brilliant breakdown work form Wallace and Robshaw, Botica would make amends – giving his side a 31-30 lead with his third penalty.
Minutes later the crowd would be on their feet as Quins rolled over to score from close range again. This would not only give them a crucial eight point lead but also gave Care a deserved hat-trick in a Man of the Match performance.
Visser went close again before Referee Marius Mitrea would blow his whistle on proceedings, much to the relief and delight of the 10,000 in the crowd. While the match was close, the home side would feel they deserved the win after creating the majority of the chances.
Harlequins will now face Grenoble in two weeks’ time after the French side also came from behind to upset Connacht. Harlequins are the only remaining English side in the competition, with Newport Gwent Dragons and Montpellier qualifying in the other side of the draw.
For semi-final ticket information please click here.
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