Harlequins fall to Exeter in final regular league game as semi-finals beckon
By Rory Poulter
7th Jun 2022 | Rugby
Exeter 47 – 38 Harlequins
The grey day down in Sandy Park didn't prevent the electric atmosphere of a high scoring match in front of over 14,000 rugby fans.
The opening ten minutes saw a balanced end-to-end play, with both teams battling for pride today. The first try of the match came from Will Evans, set up by Marcus who chipped it into the 22, then kicked to secure the opening seven points.
Quins won a scrum following the restart but a yellow card put Matt Symons on the bench for a ten-minute period. Soon after a break from Chiefs halfback Stu Townsend set up for an Exeter try for Jonny Gray. The conversion from Joe Simmonds levelled the score.
There was quick retaliation from Quins, with a kick from Danny Care setting up Joe Marchant to land the third try of the match. A missed conversion by Smith heated up the pressure as Exeter struck back with a break through and try from Stuart Hogg. Simmonds' kick for Exeter put the home side into a lead 14-12.
Symons returned to the field in the 28th minute, straight into a scrum in Quins' 22.
A perfect feed from Care to Morris at the five-metre line gave Quins their third of the match, finished off by Smith. Sadly, the injured Morris was replaced by Luke Northmore. Exeter fought back, with fly-half Simmonds spying a gap to land another try, but misses the conversion. Exeter won possession back and opted to go straight back to a driving maul, eventually kicking the ball out to end the first half on an even 19-19.
It was an absolute nail-biter at Sandy Park, with the Chiefs restarting the match with a swift try from Ian Witten, breaking the one-for-one form of the first half. Simmonds converted.
A missed pass from Quins centre Andre Esterhuizen was intercepted as Exeter staged a strong attack downfield. However, they drop the ball and with it their opportunity to score. Possession was scooped up by Marcus Smith, who broke the line from in front of his own sticks for a spectacular sprint downfield, passing inside to Lynagh deep in Exeter territory to send the winder under the posts in a magnificent retaliation from Quins. Marcus converted to level the scoreboard once again (26-26).
55 minutes in and Exeter weren't letting this one go. Stu Townsend sent the ball to Joe Simmonds who passed to Jack Nowell who casually dotted down on his return from injury. Simmonds converts (33-26).
Another spectacular score for Quins, with number eight Alex Dombrandt chipping in behind the Exeter defence for reserve scrum-half Lewis Gjaltema to chase down and claim yet another try for the day. A first in the Premiership for the New Zealander. Italian fly-half Tommy Allen, on for Smith, couldn't quite make the conversion (33-31).
Not done yet, Dombrandt sparked another score for the travelling Quins, sending a cheeky single-handed offload to Marchant who took it down the wing before a quick pass inside to Green gave Quins another five points, this time bolstered by Allen, as the travelling side took the lead for the first time in the second-half. (33-38)
Exeter brought it back as reserve prop Marcus Street dove over the line to claim another five points and retake the lead, converted by Joe Simmonds. (40-38)
Quins went down to 14 men for the final seven minutes, Dombrandt was taken off by the coaching staff with a semi-final secured and the need to protect a key player surely in mind, the Londoners looked to overturn the result with one final score.
However, two minutes to go and two points down, Esterhuizen stole the ball off Argentinian outside back Cordero at the breakdown, but the winger didn't release. The ball was spilt forwards and Exeter were awarded scrum at halfway, giving the opportunity for the home team to seal the win. Reserve Chiefs scrum-half Sam Maunder was the man to take the try and secure the win. With the try converted by Joe Simmonds, the final score read 47-38.
A match to put minutes back into the Harlequins' squads' legs after a period of two games in five weeks, with momentum and match sharpness in requirement in the build-up to a seismic semi-final away to London rivals Saracens next Saturday.