Care puts on a show to give Quins quarter-final hope
HARLEQUINS head to Agen this Friday knowing a win will send them into the quarter-finals after edging a tense game of two halves against Grenoble.
A rip-roaring first period in which both sides attacked at will saw Quins fall behind in the opening seconds before bagging four tries from Danny Care, Mike Brown, Cadan Murley and Max Crumpton to appear relatively comfortably off at the break.
However, an oddly subdued second half display allowed Grenoble a foothold before James Lang’s penalty and Alex Dombrandt’s last-gasp try settled the issue.
“Weird game,” was how skipper Care summed it up. “We wanted to start well and all our talk was about shocking them. But before you knew it, they were under our sticks in the first minute, which was probably the best thing for us.
“It woke us up and as soon as we got the ball we started playing and I think we were brilliant in attack. The disappointment for us is how soft a couple of their tries were, but we showed resolve at the end with 14men and finished the job.
“Overall, it’s five points and a successful day. We’ve got to back it up and try and get the right result in Agen now to get through the group.”
Grenoble forced a firstminute turnover inside Harlequins’ 22 and the ball went wide for skipper Antonin Berruyer to plough over.
Quins responded with a scrum turnover, only for poor handling to ruin the chance. But Semi Kunatani soon won the ball back and when Ben Lucas hesitated following Gabriel Ibitoye’s chip, the alert Care filched the ball before scooting home.
Murley’s thrilling chip and chase prompted the next Harlequins attack and Brown grabbed try No.2 from Ben Tapuai’s offload from the floor. A crunching Lewis Boyce hit on Lucas set up Quins’ third try, finished by livewire Murley from Care’s intelligent punt after Dombrandt’s charge.
Grenoble hit back when Gervais Cordin steamed through Brown’s tackle to score, but Harlequins responded by bagging their fourth try – and the bonus point – on 30 minutes when Ben Glynn took a lineout and Crumpton piled over.
It was hectic stuff and the pace refused to relent as Grenoble grabbed a third try through Cordin before the break after good work from Etienne Dusartre. Seven tries, 28-17 to Quins and plenty for the defence coaches to ponder.
handed Grenoble early second half momentum, compounded by Ibitoye’s fumble which led to a penalty chance converted by Lucas.
Harlequins looked out of sorts, conceding two more sloppy penalties as Grenoble sensed a chance. With Quins going right off the boil, another Crumpton lineout went astray but Grenoble were unable to take further advantage.
Harlequins rang the changes in an effort to wrest control and Luke Wallace’s turnover enabled Brown to create some momentum.
However, Care’s box-kick was fielded by Teiva Jacquelain and back came Grenoble through rampaging hooker Mike Tadjer. Joe Marler’s monster tackle halted him before Quins finally added to their tally through Lang’s penalty.
Harlequins enjoyed a let-off when Taleta Tupuola fumbled short of the line before Marler was again in the thick of the action with successive massive hits on Jacquelin and Lucas Dupont, to the roars of an appreciative home crowd.
Cheers soon turned to groans when Dave Ward was yellow-carded for a high shot on Jacquelin
In keeping with a strange contest, though, it was Harlequins who had the final word when Dombrandt brilliantly chased down Pablo Uberti, won a penalty, and was then on hand to rumble over after Lang had opted for a quick tap.
Reaching out: Cadan Murley collects the ball on his way to scoring for Quins
That man again: Alex Dombrandt scores in the last minute