Heartbreak for Harlequins in Sandy Park Thriller

By Harlequins

26th Sep 2022 | Rugby


Credit: JMP/Juan Gasparini for @harlequins.
Credit: JMP/Juan Gasparini for @harlequins.

A brutal result for Quins this weekend who suffered defeat in the final play of the game away to Exeter Chiefs.

Harlequins travelled to Sandy park bereft of their two usual matchday captains, with Club Captain Stephen Lewies still on his comeback from injury and usual skipper in Lewies' absence Alex Dombrandt also sidelined with a hamstring issue.

Whilst hooker Jack Walker has proven to be a more than capable deputy since joining the Club ahead of the 2021/22 season, a further blow to Harlequins' preparation saw England and British and Irish Lions prop Joe Marler ruled out last-minute on matchday due to illness.

Marler's late withdrawal would seem to set the tone for Quins' fortunes in Exeter, with the bounce of the ball seeming to be in Exeter's favour. The Chiefs ran in four converted tries and added a penalty to their account before the break to amass an almost unanswered 31 points.

Credit: JMP/Juan Gasparini for @harlequins.

While centre Luke Northmore had a score ruled out by the TMO, Quins managed to claim some first-half points via wing Cadan Murley, with the ever-present high performing outside back cutting infield before running over Chiefs scrum-half Stu Townsend to score.

Returning Quins fly-half Marcus Smith added the extras to reduce the deficit to 17 points, only for Exeter to secure the bonus point as fly-half Harvey Skinner poached an intercept off prime attacking position for Harlequins at the set-piece. The standoff cantered in, with Chiefs' fullback Joe Simmonds adding his fifth successful kick of the day to leave the scoreboard reading 31-7 at the break.

One change at the break for Harlequins as Head Coach Tabai Matson and his coaching team looked to shake things up to gain some momentum, with fan favourite scrum-half Danny Care making his first appearance of the season.

The change provided the intended impact. Quins reacted immediately, with fullback Tyrone Green and wing Cadan Murley forming a dynamic duo down the left touchline that would profit a try apiece in rapid succession within the first ten minutes. With one Smith conversion in the bag, Quins found themselves just ten points down by the 50th minute. A stark contrast to the first-half for the travelling Londoners.

Centres Luke Northmore and Lennox Anyanwu combined off an attacking scrum within Quins territory to secure a fourth and fifth try to secure the bonus point. Northmore claimed both scores, claiming an Anyanwu offload out of contact for the first score to race in from 50 metres, while his second saw him burst clean through the Exeter defence off a smart lineout move that would put Quins ahead for the first time of the day.

However, Exeter were far from ready to meekly allow Harlequins to parade into a grandstand victory. England prop Williams added his second of the day as the home side found luck through the pick and drive, with Slade's conversion restoring Exeter's lead at 38-35 with 12 minutes left on the clock.

Northmore and Murley were back terrorising the Chiefs defence immediately, with centre Ian Whitten shown a yellow card for illegally slowing ruck ball as Quins broke through the Chiefs' defence.

England man Joe Marchant was the one to benefit from a shortened Exeter backline, with a Smith cross-field kick sending Marchant juggling the ball over the line. Smith nailed the touchline conversion to put his side back ahead by four with nine minutes left of play.

It would be heartbreak for Quins in the end, with Exeter's giant openside Christ Tshiunza scoring in the left-hand corner with the clock in the red. A hard one to take for Quins, with the TMO calling an Exeter pass in the build-up to the score forward, despite referee Ian Tempest's decision to allow the score to stand.

Next up, Quins host local rivals Saracens in the Premiership Cup at The Stoop on Wednesday evening – 7.30pm kick-off.

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