Saturday, 28th November 2015 @ 17:50
Harlequins scored four tries to two away at Sandy Park but it wasn’t enough as Exeter outkicked their opposition on route to a 26-25 win.
The visitors sored three tries in a captivating first half but the boot of Gareth Steenson was the difference as the Chiefs took a 17-19 lead into the break.
As they have done so often this season Harlequins opened the scoring in the second spell with a Nick Evans penalty but a try piece from there gave the home side a hard fought 26-25 victory.
The Londoners were met with dire conditions at Sandy Park as the rain fell and the wind swept but they were feeling confident after four consecutive victories across all competitions.
While Exeter opened the scoring with a first minute penalty it was Quins who crossed the line first after a number of dominant scrums on the Chiefs line led to Referee Matt Carley awarding them a penalty try. With Danny Care holding the ball on the tee, Evans converted to give them a 3-7 in the early stages.
Steenson would cut the lead with another penalty before Harlequins scored their second. Playing with ball in hand for the almost entirety of the opening spell Care decided to put the ball on his foot for Evans to run on to, as he scored in the corner. In the swirling wind he was unable to convert his own try but they led 6-14 after just 15 minutes.
Steenson closed the gap for the Chiefs with his third penalty, but once again Harlequins responded with a try. This time it was Charlie Walker who went over after relentless pressure from the Quins pack. The normally steady boot of Nick Evans struggled from the sideline as he failed to convert.
While Chiefs closed the gap to 12-17 Quins looked to close out the half and go into the break with the lead, keeping the ball tight as they wound down the clock. With only seconds remaining however they spilled the ball on their own 40 metre line and Exeter punished them by shipping the ball to wing James Short who touched down, much to the delight of the 11,100 who had braved the cold.
After outscoring their opposition three tries to one, Harlequins trailed at half time 19-17 behind.
In similar fashion to their previous two matches though Harlequins bolted out of the blocks immediately and Evans gave them back the lead with a penalty. Bringing the score to 19-20.
For the remainder of the half the match stayed on a knife edge as it swung wildly back and forth with the unpredictable conditions and an attacking mindset of both teams keeping the crowd on the edge of their seats.
Steenson scored for the home side as they re-took the lead after 55 minutes, converting his own try to give him 21 points for the match and a 26-20 lead overrall. But Harlequins didn’t wilt as they showed the fight that has been a trademark of this season so far.
As they worked their way down field they were awarded a penalty as Elvis Taione was shown yellow for foul play. With momentum on their side and a bonus point in sight they went for the corner.
Soon after they floated the ball along the backline before Mike Brown put in a grubber that bounced fortuitously off of the corner flag straight into Tim Visser’s hands. Visser continuing his hot start for Harlequins and Brown shining on his 250th appearance for the Club.
Swiel, on for Evans, couldn’t convert from the sideline and they trailed by one point with less than a quarter of the match remaining.
Harlequins repelled a number of attacks in their own 22 but forced their way down field through the clearing boot of Brown. A second yellow to Exeter in the 77th minute gave the visitors a shot at victory as they opted to kick for goal only to hook it just wide.
It proved to be the last opportunity for Harlequins as they fell 26-25 away to an in form Exeter side. A fifth straight victory was the goal for Quins but two bonus points at Sandy Park is a decent return for any side.
Harlequins return to The Stoop next Saturday as they look to bounce back against London Irish (kick-off 15:00). Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.