Saturday, 29th September 2018 @ 18:00
Marcus Smith kicked Harlequins to victory with a penalty in the closing minutes at Kingsholm in a thrilling 25-27 victory to put the London club in the top four of the Gallagher Premiership.
The fly-half, on as a Game Changer mid-way through the second half, had been given the chance to put Quins in the lead just moments earlier but his kick from 40 yards hit the post. Then he made a brilliant, darting run which seemed to set Quins up for a try but he slipped with the try line at his mercy and, with it, Quins’ chances of a much-needed win appeared to be over.
But, with two minutes remaining a great shove from the Quins’ scrum, inspired by three more Game Changers in the front row, earned Smith another chance and this time he made no mistake.
The scoreline reflected the closeness of the encounter.
After the match, Head of Rugby, Paul Gustard said: "We played some good rugby and defended unbelivably well. We were happy and confident that our set-piece was functioning which has been a bit of a problem over the last three games.
"We're making steps in the right direction and there are 23 guys down there who are energised and enthused to make the right decision and we'll continue to improve and be better from today."
After an attritional first 14 minutes the game sprang to life when Gloucester won a lineout on the half-way line and Jake Polledri broke through a couple of tackles and then intelligently found Danny Cipriani who gratefully received the ball and charged over from 22 yards. Cipriani, in the headlines for his England omission earlier in the week, could not convert his own try and Gloucester were 5-0 ahead.
But the hosts’ lead lasted barely a minute when Gloucester, looking to pile on the pressure from the re-start saw Lewis Ludlow spill it in a dangerous position on the left-hand touchline and it gifted Nathan Earle the opportunity to have a clear run from the half-way line to equalise. James Lang, starting at fly-half for the second consecutive week, missed the kick and the scores remained 5-5.
Sixty seconds later Quins had the lead with another try for Earle. Tim Visser collected the ball on the left and made a break, then the ball was swiftly shipped through the channels to Joe Marchant who found a way through the middle and then executed a final pass to Earle on the right wing for him to go over from the 10 yards out. This time Lang converted and Quins led 5-12 after 19 minutes.
The next 10 minutes belonged to Gloucester as they forced Quins back onto their line and into committing a number of penalties under pressure. Cipriani continued to kick to the corners but Gloucester could not get over the line. Eventually Quins conceded another penalty and with this one given under the posts Cipriani gratefully took the three points.
More Gloucester pressure and more Quins’ penalties allowed Gloucester to get to 11-12 with five minutes to go as Tom Hudson and Charlie Sharples combined brilliantly down the right before the ball moved into the middle of the pitch and Matt Symons was whistled for off-side. Again Cipriani kicked the ball between the posts and Gloucester had the momentum.
Charlie Sharples turned that momentum into points with a try in the 37th minute. The Gloucester move started with the locks Gerbrandt Grobler and Ed Slater combining to punch a hole in the Quins’ defence before brilliant work from Mark Atkinson juggling the ball at centre and a sharp burst from Ben Vellacott presented Sharples with the simplest of tries.
Slater then gifted Quins three points when he went off his feet and Lang made amends for missing an earlier penalty when he slotted over to keep the visitors in touch at 18-15 at half-time.
Soon after half-time Quins were awarded another penalty after a great spell of pressure in the Gloucester 22 and Lang was able to level the scores again at 18-18.
Head of Rugby Paul Gustard appeared on the side line after 50 minutes to give his Game Changers a pep talk and soon after Smith replaced Lang and Semi Kunatani was given his first run-out in a Quins shirt as Renaldo Bothma came off.
Smith was soon at the heart of all the action and, when Billy Twelvetrees was penalised for off-side he was given a straightforward kick to put Quins ahead again.
The visitors continued to dominate the second half but could not find a way over the line from several phases which ended with Max Crumpton spilling the ball on the line. But Quins had been awarded a penalty earlier in the move and it could not have been easier for Smith in front of the posts to make it 18-24 with 15 minutes remaining.
Almost from the re-start Gloucester were ahead again when they won Danny Care kicked for touch and from the ensuing lineout, an overlap gave Sharples a clear run to score his second try of the game. Cipriani converted and Gloucester led 25-24.
The remaining 10 minutes belonged to Quins, however, and soon Smith had his moments to put the game beyond doubt. Having hit the post with his kick and then made his slip, the winning penalty finally came from a superb piece of scrummaging from Quins. Lewis Boyce, Will Collier and Dave Ward had all come on to the field in the last five minutes and the impact they made on the scrum in the Gloucester half was decisive. They forced Gloucester to concede the penalty, Smith converted and Quins’ season was back on track.
Harlequins return to The Stoop on Saturday to take on rivals Saracens (kick-off 19:30). To be there, go to tickets.quins.co.uk or call the Ticket Office on 020 8410 6010.