Marcus Smith boots Harlequins to victory over Bristol
Marcus Smith’s 17 points narrowly saw Harlequins over the line as they edged Bristol Bears 22-17 in a scrappy Gallagher Premiership contest at the Stoop.
With the rain lashing down in south west London all afternoon, both sides struggled with keeping the ball in hand for prolonged periods and a largely quiet opening 40 minutes yielded little of note.
It was the visitors who made the early running, with the Piutau brothers – Charles and Siale – both seeing plenty of the ball, although well-marshalled by the Quins defence.
Sticking to their principles, Paul Gustard’s charges were perhaps a little guilty of trying play a brand of rugby not akin with the conditions and it was only when they played a little tighter that they get their reward.
In increasingly greasy conditions, both sides coughed up several penalties within kickable range to see them go in at the break at nine points apiece, with Callum Sheedy and Smith presented with little difficulties off the tee.
The war of attrition only continued after the break, but when Nathan Hughes saw yellow for a shoulder charge – brought to referee Ian Tempest’s attention by TMO Trevor Fisher – it left the door ajar for Quins.
And, with a lead of just three points at 15-12 going into the final quarter after further penalties from each side, it was replacement Alex Dombrandt who would ignite the contest, providing a first line-break some 65 minutes in.
Quins caught the Bears napping from the resulting lineout on the Bristol five-metre line and Martin Landajo’s perfectly-weighted nudge in behind was met by a sliding Joe Marchant to finally give the crowd something to cheer.
The Bristol response was almost immediate. With the outside of Landajo’s boot brushing the touchline in the Quins 22, Pat Lam’s men went from right to left superbly, replacement Jake Heenan the man sliding over in the corner.
With the contest having come to life, Bristol threw everything at their hosts in the closing moments, with Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua both stretching their legs in the Quins half.
It was with some relief for Quins, then, when Gabriel Ibitoye eventually bundled Luke Morahan into touch to bring the game to its conclusion.
It’s a short turnaround for both sides as they head into round three next Friday evening – Sale going south to visit the Bears, with Quins heading to Franklin’s Garden’s to face Northampton Saints.