An extremely experienced Ulster side ran in eight tries to book a quarter-final tie at Franklin Gardens next weekend against Northampton Saints, after overwhelming a young and inexperienced Quins side at the Stoop.
The Pro 14 side scored four tries in the opening half to lead 29-7 at the break and never looked back.
With their first foray into Harlequins half saw Ulster open the scoring when Stuart McCloskey crashed over.
Quins had no answer to the Irish sides strong and heavy pack and conceded five penalties in the opening fifteen minutes.
Following a driving maul Rob Herring crossed with the extras added from the boot of John Cooney the visitors led by 17-0. The driving maul was a potent weapon for the visitors who added their third try of the evening when the impressive Sean Reidy went over.
Three entries into Quins 22 had already yielded 24 points with the threat of more to come. However, Ulster were reduced briefly to 14 men when Jordie Murphy was shown a yellow card.
Having the one-man advantage ensured Harlequins got themselves on to the board for the first time of the evening when captain Tom Lawday crashed over from close range after a quick tap penalty. Brett Heron added the extras, only for Ulster to instantly respond themselves straight from the kick off when a high ball was taken down for Michael Lowry to score the try of the night. The full back trusted his pace to carry him to the corner before anybody to catch him.
The second half continued in the same vein as the previous forty minutes with wave after wave of Ulster pressure. After 57 minutes Ulster had bagged their fifth try of the night from yet another lineout driving maul. This time Herring grabbed his second try of the night to inflict further damage on a young Quins side- many of whom hadn’t played any rugby for almost a year.
A loose pass from Herron was intercepted by Billy Burns to run in for yet another try for the visitors.
To their credit Harlequins never gave up and got their rewards late in the game when Jack Kenningham on his European debut powered over the line. However, it wasn’t to long before Ulster responded when Alby Mathewson dotted down under the posts.
Their was still time for Ulster to make it eight tries on the night when Reidy collected a loose ball off the hands of James Lang and crossed for his second of the evening.
With time running out the last word fell to Harlequins with Jordan Els crossing the whitewash from close range.
It was little consolation for an inexperienced Quins side who will learn a lot from the evening.
The experienced squad of Ulster were always going to be favourites for the tie, but they left London with neutrals singing their praises as a side who could well go all the way in the tournament.
Harlequins 21 Ulster 57
European Rugby Challenge Cup Sunday 4th April 2021
By Peter Moore