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Zebre 14 Harlequins 57: Smith nabs a brace as pool leaders Quins secure bonus point win

Zebre 14 Harlequins 57: Smith nabs a brace as pool leaders secure bonus point win

PUBLISHED:

16:34 GMT, 8 December 2012

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UPDATED:

16:34 GMT, 8 December 2012

Harlequins remain on course for top spot in Heineken Cup pool three after a comprehensive victory over Zebre in Parma.

The Aviva Premiership pacesetters ran in eight tries to secure a winning bonus point.

Sam Smith scored a brace with Nick Easter, Matt Hopper, Rob Buchanan and Ben Botica also among the scorers for Connor O'Shea's high fliers, who also managed two scrum penalty tries.

The most Zebre could manage on a bitterly cold day was a first-half breakaway try by Leonardo Sarto and a late consolation for Alberto Chillon.

Two tries: Sam Smith helped Quins to an easy win

Two tries: Sam Smith helped Quins to an easy win

With Biarritz losing to Connacht last night, Quins' destiny now lies in their own hands and victory in next week's return against Zebre will effectively seal their passage through to the quarter-finals.

Harlequins were good value for their win and barely had to break sweat for some of their tries.

The first came for Smith on 26 minutes, a routine dash for the corner after the Zebre defence had been stretched on the back of a Maurie Fa'asavalu turnover.

Evans converted, adding to an earlier penalty, and already it looked as though the game was up for a desperately limited Zebre side, who failed to get out of their own half in the opening half hour.

Things went from bad to worse for the hapless Italians when serial offender Mauro Bergamasco was sent to the sin-bin for a ruck offence.

With that it looked as though the floodgates would open, and Smith helped himself to a second try after linking superbly with Tom Williams.

Again Evans converted to leave Quins 17-0 up and coasting.

Complacency cost Quins as they went in search of a third try before half-time, and it was Zebre who instead struck next, Sarto racing away after one too many passes cost Quins.

It was shortlived joy for Zebre, and Quins were back in business within three minutes of the restart as Easter bagged their third try after the visiting forwards wrestled the home pack into submission.

Danny Care, Matt Hopper and Mike Brown all went close to adding a fourth, but in the end it was the forwards that took the plaudits, forcing a penalty try after dominating the home scrum.

They would do so again later in the half as Zebre went into meltdown, and sandwiched in between was a fine individual try by Hopper, who showed great footwork to outmanoeuvre the home defence.

He was eclipsed shortly after, however, by substitute prop Buchanan, who scored with practically his first touch after another irresistible attack by rampant Quins.

A late try by Chillon proved scant consolation for a disillusioned Zebre, and it was left to another substitute, Botica, to wrap up the scoring for Quins.

Exeter 42 Harlequins 28: Chiefs deny champions chance to return to top of table

Exeter 42 Harlequins 28: Chiefs deny champions chance to return to top of table

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UPDATED:

17:20 GMT, 6 October 2012

Exeter Chiefs celebrated their 50th Aviva Premiership match with a try-scoring bonus point victory at Sandy Park as the reigning champions Harlequins missed the opportunity to go back to the top of the table.

The home side freshened-up their starting line-up after least week's disappointing 30-8 defeat away to Leicester Tigers, as Australian lock Dean Mumm made his debut at the expense of skipper Tom Hayes.

Hooker Simon Alcott made his first Premiership start while flanker Ben White, fly-half Gareth Steenson and centre Phil Dollman were the other changes while No 8 Richard Baxter led the side.

The visitors had made two changes from the side that lost to Saracens last week, with Karl Dickson starting at scrum half while loosehead prop Mark Lambert made his first start of the season.

Over the line: Exeter's Jason Shoemark scores

Over the line: Exeter's Jason Shoemark scores

Steenson was quick to make an impression on the game with a good break and then the former Ireland Under 21 landed a 25 metre penalty but his opposite number, Nick Evans, saw his attempt to quickly level the scores drift wide of the uprights.

Quins maintained the pressure with Matt Hopper linking-up with his centre partner Jordan Turner-Hall but the England international was stopped short. Chiefs knocked-on but at the scrum the home side were penalised for Evans to get his side back on level terms.

Chiefs crossed for the first try of the game after a break from full back Luke Arscott which, after several phases of play, saw Dollman give a long pass to prop Brett Sturgess out on the touchline who ran round behind the posts.

Streenson added the extras and a penalty but Evans kept Quins in touch with his second penalty, from 48 metres as the Chiefs led 13-6 midway through the half. Evans then charged down Steenson's clearance kick to touchdown.

No way through Exeter's Matt Jess is held up by Joe Gray and Seb Stegmann

No way through Exeter's Matt Jess is held up by Joe Gray and Seb Stegmann

Evans failed with the touchline conversion but following Exeter pressure Steenson landed a second penalty, however England wing Ugo Monye went over for his fourth try of the season with Evans adding the conversion to give the visitors an 18-16 lead at the break.

Exeter made the perfect start to the second half with blindside flanker Ben White going over from close range, as referee Martin Fox continued play after a questionable tackle by Mike Brown on Hopper, and Steenson's conversion took the Chiefs back in front.

Midway through the half, wing Matt Jess saw his pass intercepted by replacement fly-half Rory Clegg who raced up to the Chiefs line, chased by Jess, before passing inside to scrum half Karl Dickson with Clegg converting.

Exeter, sensing a possible upset, responded with two tries in three minutes through inside centre Jason Shoemark to secure a try-scoring bonus point, with Steenson converting the second for a 10-point lead.

The home side were forced to defend their line as the game went in to the final 10 minutes with some strong tackles.

Quick ball: Exeter's Gareth Steenson releases after pressure from Chris Robshaw

Quick ball: Exeter's Gareth Steenson releases after pressure from Chris Robshaw

But they then gave away a penalty and Clegg landed his second kick to give his side a possible losing bonus point.

But the Chiefs sealed the game with two minutes remaining as replacement Sireli Naqelevuki broke clear for Exeter's fifth try and Steenson converted. Munn was yellow carded in the final minute but his side held on for the win.

Leicester 9 Harlequins 22: Champs issue title warning

Leicester 9 Harlequins 22: Quins down Tigers again to issue title warning

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UPDATED:

19:08 GMT, 22 September 2012

Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins maintained their impressive start to the season with a hard earned victory at Leicester, the team they beat in May's Twickenham final.

Their victory was Quins' fourth on the trot and sent a strong message to their rivals that they are determined to hang on to the title they won with a 30-23 win over the Tigers.

It was Harlequins' second successive win at Leicester following their 27-18 victory last October.

Not this time: Quins' Chris Robshaw is tackled by Martin Castrogiovanni

Not this time: Quins' Chris Robshaw is tackled by Martin Castrogiovanni

Winger Tom Williams scored the only try of the match while fly-half Nick Evans kicked four penalties and a conversion with Danny Care dropping a goal.

Leicester, unbeaten at home since that defeat by Harlequins a year ago, created little and their points all came from England fly-half Toby Flood – who kicked three penalties.

The hosts were without two key international backs due to injury, England centre Manu Tuilagi and former Ireland full-back Geordan Murphy, the club captain.

Their places went to Matt Smith and Scott Hamilton, whose place on the wing was taken by Niall Morris.

Number eight Jordan Crane took over as captain on his first start following a season's absence with a knee injury.

On the chase: Mike Brown is obstructed by Leicester Tigers' Steve Mafi (right)

On the chase: Mike Brown is obstructed by Leicester Tigers' Steve Mafi (right)

Harlequins brought in Matt Hopper for injured centre George Lowe, while lock Olly Kohn and flanker Maurie Fa'asavalu returned to the pack.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster and forwards coach Graham Rowntree were in the crowd for the big match of the day between first and third in the table.

With the autumn internationals just seven weeks away they were there to cast an eye over a third of the England squad, and Harlequins winger Ugo Monye was being monitored for the vacancy on the wing caused by an injury to Ben Foden.

But it was Leicester's Irish winger Morris who made the first big impression with a searing counter attack after Harlequins had kept hold of the ball for a good three minutes after the Tigers' kick-off.

On the rampage: Matt Hopper breaks against Leicester Tigers' Niall Morris (right)

On the rampage: Matt Hopper breaks against Leicester Tigers' Niall Morris (right)

Leicester huffed and puffed without looking like scoring a try but Flood put them 3-0 up with a sixth minute penalty.

The lead lasted just nine minutes as Evans slotted a long range penalty after Leicester's usually dominant scrum was penalised. Flood restored Leicester's lead with his second penalty in the 19th minute of a game which was badly in need of someone to spark it into life and Harlequins winger Williams obliged with a try at the end of the first quarter.

It was created by Evans' fine off load to lock George Robson who provided the scoring pass for Williams to scamper under the posts with Evans adding the conversion to give the visitors a 10-6 lead.

Williams went off straight away with an injury and was replaced by Ross Chisholm and seven minutes later Harlequins stretched their lead when England scrum-half Danny Care dropped a surprise goal from just left of the posts.

Evans help us: Nick Evans of Harlequins kicks a penalty

Evans help us: Nick Evans of Harlequins kicks a penalty

Flood had a chance to pull three points back after Harlequins collapsed a scrum but he was wide with his penalty while Evans hit a post with a long range penalty minutes later.

Leicester wasted a good chance right on half time when Smith broke down the left and stepped inside but his pass went behind Steve Mafi and straight into touch.

Harlequins dominated the opening exchanges of the second half and Evans stretched their lead to 16-6 with his second penalty in the 48th minute.

They may have felt they should have had more to show for their pressure after the referee went upstairs to the TMO after a scramble on the line by Mafi following Evans' kick to the corner.

Harlequins turned the screw at a succession of scrums and might have had a penalty try when Leicester collapsed one on their line.

Going down: Harlequins' captain Chris Robshaw is tackled by Tigers' Tom Youngs and Castrogiovanni

Going down: Harlequins' captain Chris Robshaw is tackled by Tigers' Tom Youngs and Castrogiovanni

Leicester rung the changes, bringing on props Dan Cole and Logovi'i Muliplola and number eight Thomas Waldrom and Leicester immediately stepped up a gear after lifting the siege.

Scrum-half Sam Harrison made a fabulous break only to see his side penalised at the breakdown, and Harlequins centre Matt Hopper almost made them pay with a searing run to the Leicester 22 before being tackled.

Chisholm pulled off a fantastic last-ditch tackle to stop Leicester flanker Julian Salvi scoring after a great break and then had to helped off due to a leg injury.

Flood kicked a simple penalty to put Leicester back in it at 9-16 but Evans cancelled that out with his third and then kicked another with five minutes left. Leicester mounted a strong finish but failed to break down a resilient Harlequins defence.

Harlequins 20 Gloucester 14: Care drives Quins home to keep Cup dream alive

Harlequins 20 Gloucester 14: Care drives Quins home to keep Cup dream alive

Danny Care and Mike Brown combined to
snatch a late win for jittery Harlequins and keep their Heineken Cup
hopes alive. Quins also shattered any lingering European dreams for Mike
Tindall and Gloucester.

Care may have blown his Six Nations
chances after his drinkdriving offence. But it was his vision that gave
Brown – pushing Ben Foden hard for the England full back's jersey
against Scotland on February 4 – the chance to score the match-winning
try and continue his sensational form.

Touch down: Matt Hopper dives over to score for Harlequins

Touch down: Matt Hopper dives over to score for Harlequins

With Toulouse earning a bonuspoint win over Connacht earlier in the day, the onus was on Quins to try and match them. Failing that, they at least had to win to have a chance of topping Pool 6 or finishing as one of the two best runnersup of the six groups.

The sight of Nick Evans practising his kicks before the start of this crunch European tie must have warmed the hearts of Quins fans, with the former All Black returning from a hand injury.

Evans had the chance to settle the nerves in the second minute but skewed his penalty wide and then watched his young counterpart, Freddie Burns, give the visitors an 11th-minute lead with a penalty. Normal service appeared to be resumed when Evans equalised in the 13th minute and then slotted a conversion six minutes later after Matt Hopper had eluded Scott Lawson to scamper over.

The try had been set up by Evans, whose neat tip gave Brown and then Ugo Monye room to run. Burns missed with his second penalty attempt.

Holding on: Ugo Monye of Quins is tackled by Charlie Sharples of Gloucester

Holding on: Ugo Monye of Quins is tackled by Charlie Sharples of Gloucester

On the half hour, James Simpson- Daniel outsprinted the Quins defence before darting back inside to score and with Burns converting the try, the visitors took a lead which they maintained until the break. Evans missed his second penalty just before the interval.

The Kiwi had the chance to make amends five minutes into the second half but missed for the third time before nailing an easier chance in the 47th minute after Luke Narraway's high tackle on Brown.

Seven minutes later a Burns penalty restored Gloucester's onepoint lead. The young stand off had the chance to increase it to four but fluffed his chance.

This propelled Quins into a concerted push close to the Gloucester line. Between the 64th and 70th minutes, scrum after scrum set and re-set, with Care putting the ball in on each occasion.

Middle man: Jonny May of Gloucester is tackled by Mike Brown and Tom Williams of Quins

Middle man: Jonny May of Gloucester is tackled by Mike Brown and Tom Williams of Quins

Eventually, Gloucester prop Nick Wood was sent to the sin bin for a technical infringement by French referee Pascal Gauzere and Care believed he had scampered over for a try, but the official blew for a Gloucester penalty instead.

The visitors finally buckled with only six minutes to go. Care produced a deft chip with the outside of his right boot and when the bobbling ball bounced off Charlie Sharples' shin, Brown was first to pounce and score. The Aviva Premiership player of December punched the air with joy and then watched Evans convert.

It now all boils down to next Friday night. Harlequins travel to play Connacht while Toulouse, two points clear of Quins at the top of Pool Six, go to Gloucester. For Quins – likely to be one of only two English teams in the quarterfinals, along with Saracens – the quest to add to last May's Amlin Cup success is still on.

Whether they enjoy a home tie as pool winners or a nasty away trip in the knockout stages will all be revealed at the end of this week.