Marcus Smith’s last minute conversion saw yet another dramatic Harlequins comeback to clinch victory in a thriller at the Stoop against 14 man Chiefs. Both these sides met back in June last year in the Gallagher Premiership Final at Twickenham in a superb game of rugby which Quins edged, and yesterday both sides served up a main dish to remember.
The reigning Premiership champions got off to the perfect start after just five minutes. The hosts won a penalty with Marcus Smith electing to kick for the corner. Following the lineout and a driving maul the ball with Joe Marchant skipping through some Exeter tackles the ball is ripped away from him by Stuart Hogg. But the full back drops the ball into the path of Luke Northmore to kick it through and dot down. Smith added the extras top give first blood to Quins.
With Chiefs first entry into the Quins twenty two, the visitors drew level following a penalty advantage the ball popped up nicely for Henry Slade to dive over in the corner. Joe Simmonds added the conversion to leave the contest even.
With half time approaching Chiefs were reduced to 14 men when Alec Hepburn was shown a red card for a tip tackle on Joe Marler.
With the one man advantage for the entirety of the second half, the hosts had a glorious chance to put the first points on the board in the second half when Cadan Murley sent Tyrone Green down the wing, with three players to pick out he was eventually dragged down, with the ball going into touch.
Exeter took advantage of Quins mistakes by taking the lead for the first time in the match following a driving maul which found replacement Jack Innard touch down. The conversion from Simmonds went wide, with the visitors holding a narrow five point lead with 14 minutes to go.
One thing you can never ever do is rule out a Harlequins comeback. With only two minutes remaining, thehe hosts levelled. With a penalty advantage, Smith’s cross field kick found Andre Esterhuzen on the wing who dived over in the corner.
It was all down to Smith to hold his nerve with the conversion. The Stoop fell silent as their fly-half was about to take his kick. Smith watched his kick hit the post before going over the sticks.
With the clock showing in the red, Chiefs had once last push to try and win the game, but Quins turned the ball over to send the majority of the crowd into raptures.
Harlequins 14 Exeter Chiefs 12
Gallagher Premiership Saturday 8th January 2022
Peter Moore at the Stoop