All-action affair in Paris ends in defeat for Harlequins

By Harlequins

17th Jan 2023 | Local Sport

Credit: JMP/Juan Gasparini for @harlequins.
Credit: JMP/Juan Gasparini for @harlequins.

Harlequins suffered a nail-biting defeat away to Racing 92 at the Paris la Defense Arena over the weekend, with an on-form Quins side displaying serious attacking threat despite the result.

With Joe Marler, Club Captain Stephan Lewies, Will Evans, Marcus Smith and Aaron Morris back and fit again for Quins, the team saw a much-improved performance from the previous weekend's defeat against Sale Sharks in the Gallagher Premiership.

Making the most of their home advantage, Racing opened the day's scoring in the fifth minute, sending Harlequins' wide defence scrambling as the Parisians' backs enjoyed room to roam. A Finn Russell conversion at the stunning Paris la Defense Arena took the home side ahead by seven points.

The French outfit displayed their classically potent attacking game throughout the early exchanges, putting Quins under real pressure with multiple visits into the Quins' 22.

The Harlequin set-piece, however, proved airtight throughout the day, sending the Parisians out of the 22 with concrete scrummaging and ariel dominance at the lineout. Fit-again skipper Lewies' poach of a Racing lineout seven metres from his side's line was a particularly welcome sight for those backing the London side. The Springbok second row looked sharp and athletic throughout his first appearance of the season.

While two Quins kicks to the corner in the hope of gaining points proved fruitless, fly-half Marcus Smith added a penalty in the 25th minute to get his side on the board, Racing 7, Harlequins 3.

It had seemed that Quins were going to steal the lead as fit-again wing Morris barged his way over three defenders to dot down in the left corner, only to be ruled as held up by the TMO.

While there will surely have been frustration within the Quins' ranks, having been unable to convert their attacking moments, Quins had started making dents after an early 15 minutes dominated by Racing, with Smith unleashing giant centre Andre Esterhuizen to impressive effect in the lead up to Morris' almost score.

Disaster came for Quins as, within three minutes, they went from a TMO ruling out Morris' score to seeing Racing 92's reserve backrow Kitione Kamikamica burst through the Quins defence to secure a second try for the home side. Russell added the two to make it 14-3 to the hosts at half-time.

Racing struck with lightning-fast speed at the start of the second half to establish a 21-3 lead as they sent former Harlequins centre Francis Saili over in the left corner, with the French team having regained possession from the kick-off after Quins failed to gather Russell's kick.

Quins finally struck with their first try four minutes later as, ever the opportunist, Danny Care dove from the base of the ruck to touch down. A welcome score for Quins, having had a second try ruled out a minute before after a driving maul on skates was held up over the Racing line. Smith nailed a wide conversion to reduce the hosts' lead to eleven.

Some sleight of hand from Smith as he feigned two offloads to hold the Racing defenders saw the fly-half burst through the fringes of the Racing defence, firing the ball wide to Cadan Murley to finish a stunning score. Smith added the extras via another tough conversion to hack down the hosts' lead to just four points at 21-17.

Quins went down to 13 players for a time as both Aaron Morris and Alex Dombrandt were shown yellow cards during a chaotic period of unstructured Racing 92 attack.

Chaotic rugby reigned in Paris, as Quins took a quick and long lineout throw to catch Racing off guard following a potent series of Harlequin attacks. After route one proved to be closed, Care and Joe Marchant sent the ball spinning wide to Murley to crash down for his second score in the exact same spot as his first. Smith, who again played a large hand in the build up to the score, pulled his conversion left this time. Just a two-point lead for Racing with 13 minutes left to play, with Russell having added a penalty to his account prior to Murley's second score.

Russell added another penalty in the 69th minute to take Racing outside of penalty territory with a five-point lead once again.

In their frenzy to hold back a Quins attack in full swing as Smith terrorized the defensive line, Racing were reduced to 12 men within the final ten minutes after wing Taofifenua, reserve prop Eddy Ben Around and Finn Russell were shown yellow cards for cynical penalties within their own 22 as Quins looked to stage a late comeback victory. A madcap period within the Racing 22 eventually saw the Paris side concede a 75th-minute penalty try to see Tabai Matson's side hold a 27-29 lead.

Problems at the restart continued to plague the Club, with a messy collection eventually seeing Racing awarded a 77th-minute penalty kick to retake the lead by a slim single point. Despite a ferocious effort with Harlequins fighting tooth and nail to regain possession and claim the win, Racing were able to retain the ball and send it into the stands once the clock went into the red, sealing a home victory at the end of a highly entertaining clash in the Paris la Defense Arena.

FINAL SCORE: Racing 30-29 Harlequins

Next up for Harlequins, a return home as we welcome the mighty Cell C Sharks from South Africa, with the men in the Famous Quarters looking to repay the favour after suffering defeat in Durban earlier this season.

Harlequins vs Cell C Sharks. Saturday, January 21, 13:00 kick-off. Live on BT Sport.

     

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