Harlequins 38 Grenoble 20

Saturday, 12th January 2019 @ 15:00



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Harlequins secured a five-try, bonus-point victory over Grenoble at The Stoop to stay in control of their destiny in Pool 5 of the Challenge Cup.

The 38-20 victory means that a win at Agen next week will be enough to earn a place in the quarter-finals.

The tries were distributed across the team again with Danny Care, Mike Brown, Cadan Murley and Max Crumpton going over in the first half and Alex Dombrandt becoming the outright Club top scorer this season with his brilliant effort in the last minute of the match.

A thoroughly entertaining first half got off to the worst possible start for Harlequins when, having been turned over in their own 22 from kick-off, they swiftly moved five points behind as Grenoble went through the phases and Captain Antonin Berruyer burrowed over from five yards.

But Quins looked dangerous in attack from the start and, having recovered from a couple of careless knock-ons, were soon back on level terms thanks to a try from captain Care. Chasing down a delightful little kick from Gabriel Ibitoye, Care collected inside the Grenoble half and sped away from the visitors to touch down in front of the posts. Marcus Smith converted and Quins led after 12 minutes.

The hosts extended that lead just moments later when Murley was released on the left wing for the first time and he put a kick through to put Grenoble under pressure on their own line. Harlequins were swift to get the ball down the back line again and Brown was on hand to go over for the try to celebrate his 309th appearance in style. Again Smith converted and Quins were 14-5 up after 14 minutes.

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Then it was the dangerous Murley’s turn to get in on the act when, after 19 minutes, Dombrandt brilliantly foiled a Grenoble attack by turning the ball over just inside the visitors half. His offload found Care whose kick through the middle sat up perfectly for Murley to charge over for Quins’ third try of the match. Smith was presented with a tougher kick wider out on the left but he found the posts unerringly and Quins now led 21-5.

But as good as Quins were looking in attack, Grenoble appeared to threaten every time they had ball in hand and, after 24 minutes, had clawed another try back when consecutive Quins’ penalties at the maul enabled Grenoble to ship the ball wide where Full-back Gervais Cordin was on hand to score under the posts. This time Ben Lucas converted and Grenoble were still in touch.

Harlequins secured a fourth try and a potentially crucial bonus point after 30 minutes when Grenoble conceded a penalty and they went for the lineout despite having an eminently kickable three points on offer. First Care found Murley on the crash ball and he nearly found his way over, then they went again with the rolling maul and Crumpton went over to make it 26-12. Smith, who has a 100 per cent kicking record in his past three matches, converted again to make it 28-12.

Another spell of Grenoble pressure from kick off and the visitors were back in it. They forced a Quins lineout in the hosts’ 22 and when Quins lost it, Grenoble found Cordin on the left wing to score in the corner. Lucas missed the kick so, despite the score in tries being 4-3 to Quins, the hosts led by 11 going into the interval.

The second half saw Grenoble on the attack from the start and, with Quins being whistled for penalties at an alarming rate, the French side always looked likely to stay in contention. Lucas converted one after 45 minutes when man-of-the-match Matt Symons was called offside to make it 28-20 and Grenoble continued to build dangerous attacks for the remainder of the half. However Quins defence stepped up and did not allow their opponents through for a try all half and only one kickable penalty, which Corentin Glenat was unable to score from.

Instead, despite the pressure and the penalty count going against them, the hosts were able to earn a penalty of their own after 64 minutes when a brilliant deep lineout found Dombrandt who charged up the middle to put Grenoble under pressure. The conceded with an offside and James Lang, on as a Game Changer for Smith, made no mistake.

Grenoble maintained the pressure though and only important tackles from Brown and Joe Marler, also on as a Game Changer, saved Quins at important moments. Then with six minutes remaining Quins were forced to play with 14 men after Dave Ward saw yellow for a high tackle.

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But the hosts reverted to their resilient best and managed to shut Grenoble out until the moment in the last minute when Pablo Uberti tried to run it from deep in his own half, pursued by the indefatigable Dombrandt. The Number 8 chased him down, then won Quins a penalty five yards from the line – and then, from the rolling maul from the penalty, managed to go over for his ninth try of the season – his sixth in the last five games.

Thanks to a bonus point picked up in defeat at Benetton, Quins have a better head-to-head record than the Italians and so, with a one-point advantage on Benetton in the group, the squad knows that any victory in Agen next Friday will see them qualify for the next stage of the Challenge Cup.

Tickets are now available for Harlequins v Saracens in the Premiership Rugby Cup on Saturday 26th January (kick-off 15:00) now. Tickets available at tickets.quins.co.uk

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