Saturday, 13th October 2018 @ 19:10
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Mulchrone stars in eight-try victory for Harlequins against Agen
Harlequins got their Challenge Cup campaign off to a flying start with an eight-try 54-22 victory over Agen at The Stoop.
Charlie Mulchrone deservedly earned the man of the match award as he made his first start of the season, pulling the strings at Scrum-half and getting on the scoresheet himself with a try.
Harlequins dominated the opening 15 minutes but chances were scarce until some neat inter-play between Marcus Smith and Gabriel Ibitoye released Mike Brown on the over-lap on the left and he made no mistake from Agen’s 22. Smith converted to make it 7-0.
The 9,500 supporters packed into The Stoop may have been expecting a deluge to follow but a spirited and powerful Agen side hit back and, when Semi Kunatani was penalised for offside after 23 minutes, they finally chose to go for the points and Fly-half Leo Berdeu put them back to within four points.
Moments later Quins had extended their lead when Mulchrone finished the best move of the half which began with captain James Chisholm brilliantly collecting a high ball which, when recycled, came back to Brown who found Nathan Earle who in in turn released Joe Marchant down the left wing again. Marchant timed his pass to perfection inside him and Mulchrone sprinted over. Smith’s conversion made it 14-3 and, with 26 minutes on the clock, Quins were threatening to take the game away from Agen.
The home side’s third try came moments later, started by Mulchrone pouncing on Berdeu and Agen conceding a penalty. From a couple of powerful breaks by Kyle Sinckler and Semi Kunatani, Smith was able to jink his way past the Agen defence before gifting Kuntani the easiest of tries. Smith converted and it was 21-3 with less than 30 minutes gone.
But Agen were far from finished for the half and some strong running from Full-back Loris Tolot and Berdeu ended with a deserved try for Tolot which saw the scores at 21-8 at half-time.
Quins came sprinting out of the blocks at the start of the second half and Earle got his fourth try of the season after 42 minutes when, after multiple phases of thrilling running rugby from Quins, he went over on the left. The winger took a knock to his knee as he went over and had to go off, replaced by Francis Saili to great acclaim from The Stoop who were delighted to see the All Black take the field again after such a long time out with injury.
Quins continued to pile on the pressure and eventually it told with a wonderful driving maul from a lineout five yards from the line. George Merrick, making his first start of the season, emerged with the ball in his hands and, with Smith’s conversion, took the score to 33-8.
The home side were playing some expansive, running rugby – avoiding the kicking game because of a tricky swirling wind – but this came unstuck when a Ben Tapuai found a pass in how own 22 intercepted and allowed Agen another score under the posts. 33-15.
It didn’t deter Tapuai however and another brilliant break from the Australian almost let in Mulchrone for another try for the Scrum-half in the 56th minute. The relentless Quins’ pressure finally told five minutes later when they awarded a penalty try.
Agen refused to lie down and only a last-ditch Mulchrone tackle prevented another try for the visitors before Quins extended their lead further. The home side’s seventh try of a glorious afternoon came when another spell of running rugby saw Tapuai release Marchant with a beautiful looping miss-pass and Demetri Catrakilis, on for Smith, converted to take the score to 47-15.
Another piece of scruffy play allowed Agen to score again with a simple try for Facundo Bosch with only five minutes remaining but it was always going to be Quins’ day and the indomitable Kunatani completed the try-scoring when, having accidentally blocked a Catrakilis pass in the middle of the field on the Agen 22, reacted to pick the ball up and charge home to take Quins into the 50s. Catrakilis converted and, a couple of sloppy conceded tries aside, completed a thoroughly satisfactory day for Paul Gustard’s side.
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