Saturday, 23rd March 2019 @ 18:30
Kick off 15:00
Kick off 15:00
Kick off 15:00
Kick off 14:00
Kick off 19:45
Harlequins succumbed to an excellent second-half comeback by Saracens at the London Stadium on Saturday, as they saw a half-time 6-17 lead turn into a 27-20 defeat.
Head of Rugby Paul Gustard said afterwards that the first half was about as good as the team has shown all season and, with Danny Care and Marcus Smith pulling the strings at Scrum-half and Fly-half, the visitors were able to dominate Saracens for larger periods. Both scored tries and Smith’s kicking boot was excellent all day as he delivered 15 of Quins’ points.
It was a scrappy opening 20 minutes with only a Smith penalty the difference between the teams but both sides started to hit their stride and Saracens went close after 25 minutes but let Quins off when Vincent Koch spilled the ball close to the try line.
Four minutes later and Quins looked certain to score when a wonderful break from Mike Brown saw the ball shipped to Joe Marchant and then to Ross Chisholm on the left wing who was eventually denied by a brilliant David Strettle tackle.
But Smith had a try after 32 minutes when a beautiful backs move saw Tapuai find Smith, 25 yards from the try-line but with plenty of work to do. A wonderful line from Brown opened up space for Smith and he dummied his pass and ran through the middle to go over under the posts. His conversion made it 0-10 and it wasn’t until the 35th minute that Saracens put some points on the board through an Alex Lozowski penalty.
Lozowski slotted another four minutes later to make it 6-10 and the half appeared to be over when the Centre kicked the ball to touch in his own 22 with 40 minutes almost on the clock. But there was time for one more play and, when Quins won the lineout, Care picked his moment brilliantly and darted over the line. Smith made a tricky conversion from wide on the left and the visitors went into the half-time break with a commanding lead.
But the second half belong completely to Saracens as ill-discipline, some poor lineouts and typical Saracens’ power-play put Harlequins on the back foot.
Billy Vunipola thought he had gone over two minutes after the re-start but was ruled out by the TMO – but it was only moments later that Schalk Burger scored the hosts’ first try of the match after a period of relentless pressure on Quins’ line.
Jamie George almost went over a couple of times after that and Liam Williams touched down over the line only to be denied by referee JP Doyle again. Finally it was Will Skelton, after 58 minutes, who gave Saracens the lead when he used his power to go over after Harlequins had conceded another penalty close to their line.
Wave after wave of Saracens attack came at Quins now but Smith was able to put the scores back to 20-20 with a huge kick from the half-way line after 60 minutes. But the pressure was still telling and Skelton went over again when Nathan Earle was unable to collect a kick on his own line and the ball was fed back to the Second row at close range.
Harlequins’ defence was valiant but they were unable to spend any time in the Saracens’ half in the second half and, in the final minute, Alex Goode had the chance to extend the hosts’ lead further with a penalty in front of the posts. His miss, however, ensure Harlequins did, at least, manage to secure a Bonus Point to take away from a tough afternoon in Stratford.