Spectacular fightback from Harlequins just falls short in European comeback


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Harlequins narrowly missed out on the quarter-final stages of the European Champions Cup by the tightest of margins, going down on aggregate by just a single point after Marcus Smith missed a late conversion which would have seen Quins go through.

Harlequins  28  Montpellier  17

European Champions Cup  Last 16  2nd leg

Montpellier win on aggregate 60-59

Harlequins went into the second leg trailing by 14 points, knowing they had to score early to try and force what would have been a spectacular comeback, against the top side in Top 14 rugby at the moment.

After only 34 seconds, Alex Dombrandt spotted a huge hole in the French defence to pass to Huw Jones to run in to give the Quins fans hope of a possible comeback which the London side are accustomed to doing so. With Smith’s conversion the gap had been halved and very much game on.

However, with Montpellier’s first entry into the Quins twenty two they scored when Yvan Reilhac dotted down.

Harlequins hit back immediately after quick work from Danny Care saw Dombrandt crash over. Smith added the extras to give Quins a slight advantage on the day by seven points.

A penalty from Louis Foursans-Bourdette cut the deficit before one of the most sensational tries anybody will see in European rugby was witnessed by the crowd at the Stoop.

It all started when somehow Care managed to acrobatically keep the ball in touch, he scooped the ball up to Smith who ran through four players with his customary goose step before throwing the ball to Cadan Murley, who spotted Joe Marchant the simple task of running in.

The conversion was successful with Quins restoring their advantage to 11 points, but still trailing on aggregate.

The French side then hit back when a cross field kick was gathered by Julien Tisseron who dotted down. The extras were added as once again, Montpellier refused to go away.

Quins lost the services of the excellent Will Evans before the break, but the home side responded to this loss on the cusp of the interval following an attacking scrum that saw Louis Lynagh touch down. Smith added the extras to give Harlequins an 11 point lead at the break 28-17.

The first points of the second half fell the way of the visitors via a penalty to reduce the arrears to eight points.

Montpellier were beginning to get called for a succession of penalties when eventually Jeremie Maurouard was sent to the bin.

Smith thought he had scored a try, but his effort was washed out for obstruction. Harlequins threw everything at the French side with each and every man, giving absolutely everything.

With four minutes remaining, Montpellier’s fine defence was breached following a huge carry from Andre Esterhuizen who found Lynagh to cross for his second of the afternoon.

It was down to Smith’s conversion to win the game and seal yet another famous Harlequins comeback. As the ground fell silent, Smith stepped up, but saw his effort drift wide of the post.

On the day Harlequins were worthy winners, but the damage had been done a week earlier in the opening forty minutes in France when they found themselves 26-0 down at the break, before a fine second half fightback kept them in the tie, with all to do at the Stoop.

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