Friday, 10th February 2017 @ 22:30
Harlequins returned to Aviva Premiership action with an impressive 8-42 win over Bristol Rugby.
Still searching for their first away win in the Premiership this season, Harlequins got off to a fast start thanks to an early Joe Marchant try that helped them to a 8-13 half-time lead.
In the second half their endeavor turned into points as tries to Mark Reddish, Charlie Mulchrone and Matt Hopper gave them the try bonus point before a late James Chisholm try capped off an important 8-42 victory.
After a disappointing few weeks in the European Rugby Challenge Cup and Anglo-Welsh Cup, Harlequins arrived at Ashton Gate Stadium sitting seventh in the domestic league. The Bristol match was the first in a crucial set of fixtures that was set to define Harlequins’ season.
They got off to the best possible start as Marchant was on the receiving end of a clever Mulchrone kick over the defence, and they led 0-7 within three minutes.
Jason Woodward and Ruaridh Jackson would swap penalties before Tom Varndell would make history. The experienced winger crossing for Bristol to become the sole leader of Premiership Rugby’s try scoring record, with 91. Helping his side close the gap to 8-10.
The remainder of the half was tightly contested but it was Quins who had the better of the chances as they broke numerous tackles as well as found success with their offload game – particularly from the forwards as their short passes were helping break the gainline repeatedly. .
While playing in the right areas of the field, they couldn’t quite create another clear cut chance outside of a second Jackson penalty goal that took the score to 8-13.
With time up on the clock loosehead prop Ryan Bevington was shown a yellow card and while Ross Chisholm missed the long range attempt on goal, it would prove costly on the side of the break
Harlequins would have been happy with their performance at the break but aware they probably should have been further ahead. Just two minutes into the second spell, replacement second row Mark Reddish finished smartly from close range and gave them the buffer they needed.
The next ten minutes was a back and forth affair as both teams had multiple steals at the breakdown before stand out performer Charlie Mulchrone put the match out of reach.
First, he cleaned up on the defensive end as Bristol went close after a charge down. Only minutes later, down the other end of the field, he was on hand to score following a Dave Ward break from 40 metres out. Jackson was successful with the conversion and Quins led 8-27.
On the hour mark they got the bonus point that could prove so crucial later in the season. Camped out on their own line, and a man down after Tim Visser’s professional foul, Marchant snatched a wayward pass and raced down field. He was chased down by a scrambling defence but the ball fell to Hopper who kicked ahead and re-gathered to score the fourth.
Bristol tried to get themselves back into the encounter but Harlequins' defence remained solid for the entire match. As John Kingston cleared his bench, Harlequins would get a fifth. Back row James Chisholm dotting down for his fifth score of the season. Replacement Tim Swiel added the extras, and a penalty on full-time, as Harlequins wrapped up an impressive 8-42 away to a revitalised Bristol side.
The win moves Harlequins up to fifth place and only a win away from play-off contention. They now face crucial encounters away to Bath, and at home to Leicester Tigers, two matches that will go a long way to deciding play-off and European positioning come the end of the season.
Tickets for Harlequins match against Leicester on Friday 24th February are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.