Sunday, 2nd February 2020 @ 13:00
Harlequins claimed their place in the Premiership Rugby Cup final, overseeing Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park, with a commanding 22-49 victory.
Two early injuries slowed down the opening eight minutes with Cadan Murley being replaced by Ross Chisholm after failing an HIA, before Tom Penny received treatment but was able to continue. Penny was later forced off with the injury, with Brett Herron entering the field after 18 minutes.
On the 10th minute, Exeter knocked on around the Quins 22m line, which set Aaron Morris on his way, chipping over the last man who did well not to ground the ball in the dead zone and run out into the Exeter half. Ibitoye was then sent to chase the ball after Danny Care’s grubber through the Chiefs’ defence, but Gabs was forced into a knock on by his opposition at the grounding.
It was, however, Quins that opened up the scoring, through the boot of Marcus Smith who converted the penalty 14 minutes in, giving Quins a 0-3 lead in the semi final.
And with 17 minutes left of the first half, Alex Dombrandt crossed the line to extend Quins’ lead. Marcus Smith found touch from the penalty which kicked off a fast Quins attack that saw the ball out wide to Ibitoye, who was able to beat one defender to produce a lovely offload to the following Alex Dombrandt who touched down. Smith’s kick just fell to the left of the posts and Quins held a 0-8 lead.
Moments later it looks like Quins had crossed the line again, in the opposite corner, after Ibitoye broke through the defence again, before giving to Will Evans. The ball then found its way out wide for Aaron Morris to reach over the line, only to be held up.
Quins’ advantage increased on the 31st minute, this time seeing Ibitoye get his try after the ball fell into his hands after bouncing off the back of an opposition player. Despite the unusual turn of events, Ibitoye played to the whistle and ran his way through the dead ball area to set Marcus Smith up for the extras. Quins held a 0-15 lead.
Five minutes before the break, Exeter scored their first try of the afternoon after captain Sam Skinner chased down the kick. Harvey Skinner missed the kick and the sides resumed play at 5-15.
Just before the break, Exeter were penalised just inside their own half, setting Marcus Smith up for the penalty. The young fly half had the legs to add the three and send Quins into the break with a 5-18 lead.
It was Exeter that claimed the first score of the second half, after relentless pressure on the Quins line saw Tom Price touch down. Skinner’s conversion narrowed the score to 12-18.
10 minutes into the second half, it was so close for Quins after relentless phases of quick ball led to Game Changer Mark Lambert carrying the ball over the line. Under pressure however, Lambert was forced into the knock on.
From the scrum, Danny Care worked tirelessly to turn the ball over to give Quins advantage 5m out. And the speedy play paid off after a pick and go from Glen Young saw the Scottish lock claim his first try for the Club on the 53rd minute. Smith’s conversion took the visitors’ lead to 12-25.
The hunt for the final continued, this time as Alex Dombrandt had the legs to run down the flank and touch down in the corner. Dombrandt’s try came as the result of some quick thinking from Smith, who offloaded to Kunatani who brought the ball back inside to Ross Chisholm before setting off Dombrandt. Smith was able to slot the ball between the posts to give Quins the 12-32 lead after 62 minutes.
Now on a roll, and only moments later, a beautiful line break from powerful inside centre Lasike set Quins on their way, with Ibitoye producing a nostalgic try in the far corner similar to the one he scored in the Gallagher Premiership earlier in the season. Smith missed the kick but Quins held a commanding 12-37 lead with less than 15 minutes left on the clock.
Continuing the dominance, running away with the second half, Ross Chisholm added his name to the scoresheet, slotting down under the posts. The play originated from a beautiful pass from Paul Lasike out wide to Ibitoye who lured in his defender before giving to Martin Landajo, with the Argentine shortly gifting Chisholm with the free run under the sticks. Following Smith’s kick, Quins had all but secured their place in the final, holding a 12-44 advantage with 12 minutes to play.
Exeter worked to pull one back on the 69th minute as James Short received the ball in space out wide, but Sam Morley’s unsuccessful attempt at goal kept Quins 27 points ahead.
This lead was extended following a quick tap penalty from Martin Landajo which led to Marcus Smith adding five to his tally for the day. The 20-year-old wasn’t able to convert his own try as the game entered into the final seven minutes.
Chiefs lock Price added his second of the game in the dying moments, but the game finished with a historic 22-49 win for Harlequins, claiming their first victory at Sandy Park since 2014, and having a shot at silverware for the first time since 2013 at the Premiership Rugby Cup final on Saturday 14 March.
Harlequins return to The Stoop on Saturday 15 February to host London Irish, as part of the Club’s Pride themed fixture. Tickets are available at tickets.quins.co.uk