Vu­nipola strikes at death to grab vic­tory from gutsy Quins

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Gallagher Premiership - By Gary Fitzger­ald at Twick­en­ham Stoop

Billy Vu­nipola pro­duced a man of the match per­for­mance in front of a watch­ing Ed­die Jones to en­sure Sar­ries kept hold of their 100 per cent record.

Mark McCall’s men lifted their im­pres­sive record to 13 suc­ces­sive wins in a nig­gly derby.

How­ever, they were made to strug­gle hard for this suc­cess – their sixth in this sea­son’s cam­paign, which puts them level with Ex­eter on points – with the fail­ure to get a bonus point mean­ing they had to set­tle for sec­ond place in the table.

Quins threat­ened to up­set the cham­pi­ons by lead­ing for the ma­jor­ity of the con­test but Sar­ries fin­ished strongly to make sure they en­ter an­other Euro­pean cam­paign with their con­fi­dence and morale on a high.

Vu­nipola said: “It’s al­ways pretty lively when we come here, and we al­ways know Quins will make it as tough as they can for us. The ri­valry be­tween these two teams is big and it was a phys­i­cal game. I en­joy these con­tests but we left it a lit­tle later than we had hoped. It was im­por­tant to keep our win­ning run go­ing, and keeps us right up there in the table.”

Fly-half Owen Far­rell, who kicked 20 points, and made sure his side kept on the coat-tails of Quins be­fore strik­ing for vic­tory in the fi­nal 10 min­utes, said: “The char­ac­ter of this side was there for all to see. We did not play our best rugby and Quins came at us hard. But the sign of a good team is win­ning games like this even when you strug­gle at times.”

Mike Brown led Quins out to mark his 300th club ap­pear­ance and the full­back, capped 72 times by his coun­try, helped the hosts take a 13-9 half-time lead. The high­light of the open­ing 40 min­utes was Danny Care’s in­ter­cep­tion try while the low point was the sight of Quins cen­tre Paul Lasike car­ried off on a stretcher af­ter be­ing knocked cold af­ter an un­for­tu­nate col­li­sion with gi­ant Will Skel­ton’s knee.

Young Eng­land hope­ful Mar­cus Smith kept his cool to send his kick through the posts for an early Quins lead af­ter Alex Lo­zowski gave away a penalty. The hosts lost Lasike but Smith kicked a penalty and Care pro­duced a mo­ment of in­spi­ra­tion to in­ter­cept Ben Spencer’s pass and race half the length of the field for his 54th try on his 250th ap­pear­ance.

Far­rell’s ac­cu­rate kick­ing ei­ther side of the break kept Sar­ries in the game but Quins grabbed a re­mark­able try through cen­tre Joe Marchant who leapt to catch Smith’s penalty kick which had been held up by the wind. He ath­let­i­cally caught the ball and dived over for a su­perb score.

How­ever, an eight-point lead was not enough as Sar­ries demon­strated just why they are cham­pi­ons, fin­ish­ing strongly and grab­bing the points.

Far­rell sent over a fifth penalty and then con­verted af­ter Vu­nipola popped up on the right wing for the cru­cial win­ning try.

Quins coach Mark Mapletoft de­scribed the per­for­mance as: “A mix­ture of in­cred­i­ble pride and frus­tra­tion. I’ve not seen us de­fend like that for a long time but it hurts to lose as well.”

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