Lovell Rugby Match of the Week: Harlequins (26) v Leicester Tigers (26)
Harlequins produced a wonderfull late comeback against the Leicester Tigers to produce one of the games of the season at Twickenham, which hosted the record gate for a preimership game outside the final and playoff system.
Ugo Monye, whose try allowed Harlequins to draw level in the final minute after they had trailed by 14 points just after the interval, captured it neatly. “We have to forget what’s past, whether good or bad,” the England wing said, as much of his defensive error that gave Leicester their first try as his own score. “I have massive belief in my own ability, I’ll always have a go and back myself.”
Johne Murphy, who turned poor lineout ball into a wonderful try for Tom Croft. This try off bad blind side defending swung the favour back in the tigers favour.
The better, more integrated rugby came from Harlequins, who should have made far more of their first-half dominance. They disrupted Leicester’s lineout significantly, scrums were few and far between and in the first quarter they threatened every time the ball was moved wide, but they trailed 16-9 at half-time.
Leicester’s scrambling defence and the great fund of knowledge in such players as Martin Corry and Lewis Moody frustrated Harlequins and probably contributed to the departure to the sin-bin of Will Skinner, their captain. Since Leicester already had Benjamin Kayser serving time, that levelled matters and Leicester were back to full strength when Julien Dupuy kicked through a loose ball that then cannoned off Monye’s knee as he tried to drop on it and Murphy chased through for the score
When Murphy bolted round the front of a breaking lineout and found Croft in full stride, the hordes of flag-waving Harlequins supporters could have been forgiven for thinking that the occasion had become too much for their team. Not a bit of it. They worked Mike Brown into the left-hand corner, Dan Hipkiss being fortunate to escape a yellow card for garish offside play at a tapped penalty, and Nick Evans casually kicked the awkward conversion.
Harlequins made a horrendous mess of two tryscoring opportunities and Danny Care seems to have lost his zest for the break close to the forwards. But the young scrum half is still maturing and when push came to shove in the closing stages, there was little wrong with his game.
An exchange of penalty goals between Evans and Toby Flood (wearing his Asics Testimonial rugby boots) kept Harlequins within touching distance and after a dart by Care, the yellow card came out again for Moody with two minutes remaining. Even then, Marco Wentzel stole a Harlequins lineout on his own line and Dupuy needed to find touch with his clearance. Instead, he gave Harlequins the opportunity to run back, Tom Williams did well to drag in the weakened defence and Evans gave Monye (wearing his Nike rugby boots) the chance to brush aside Tom Varndell’s tackle. The Kiw stand off had a conversion from almost the same position as his earlier effort to draw the match and he never looked like missing.
Scorers: Harlequins: Tries: Brown (58min), Monye (79). Conversions: N Evans 2. Penalty goals: N Evans 4 (3, 14, 28, 75). Leicester: Tries: Murphy (39), Croft (50). Conversions: Flood 2. Penalty goals: Flood 4 (9, 29, 37, 72).
Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, D Barry, J Turner-Hall, U Monye; N Evans, D Care; C Jones, T Fuga (rep: C Brooker, 50), M Ross, J Percival (rep: J Evans, 65), G Robson, C Robshaw (rep: T Guest, 72), W Skinner (sin-bin, 29-40), N Easter.
Leicester: S Hamilton (rep: T Varndell, 44); M Smith, D Hipkiss, A Mauger, J Murphy; T Flood, J Dupuy; B Stankovich (rep: M Castrogiovanni, 52-61), B Kayser (sin-bin, 23-35; rep: G Chuter, 60), J White (rep: M Castrogiovanni, 67), M Corry, M Wentzel, T Croft, L Moody (rep: B Herring, 6-12; rep: Chuter, 31-35; sin-bin, 78), J Crane (rep: C Newby, 67).
Referee: D Pearson. Attendance: 50,000.