Friday, 13th December 2019 @ 19:45
Harlequins fell to a 10-34 defeat in the Heineken Champions Cup against Ulster on a wet, cold night at The Stoop.
It was an enthusiastic start to the game, with the home crowd in full voice, aiming to drown out the many travelling supporters. Some moments of magic in the early stages played a key factor in the excitement under the Friday night lights, including some incredible catching and kicking displays, aligned to real hunger shown by Harlequins.
Ulster took the early lead, through the boot of that man John Cooney after a penalty seven minutes in, to take a three-point lead.
At the 20-minute mark, Ulster had held most of the ball, but Quins defended resiliently in what was an extremely physical game at The Stoop. Ulster thought they had the upper hand with the lineout five metres out, won by the visitors but Quins responded with a powerful counter drive and ultimately were awarded a vital penalty to regain possession.
The crowd were on their feet on the 31st minute after a cheeky little offload from captain Kyle Sinckler set Stephan Lewies on his way, but Ulster’s last man was able to ground the South African. Lewies was off again, a minute later, and Quins were awarded effectively free play with the penalty advantage. The crowd were alive as Ulster’s defence held strong, but the ball was knocked forward by Quins, meaning the referee Alexandre Ruiz pulled the play back for a Quins penalty.
Quins levelled the score on the 34th minute, with James Lang adding the three from the resulting penalty, bringing Quins back into the game.
But with two minutes left until the break, a fast counter-attack from Ulster saw the away side speed their way to the other end of the pitch and cross the line, with John Cooney. Cooney converted his own try to give Ulster a 3-10 lead at the break.
During the break, the heavens opened, having an immediate impact on the game with Quins knocking on in their own 22. But moments later Quins broke through with Semi Kunatani who gained some serious yards, before offloading to Ross Chisholm, but the Ulster back line were able to get a hand on the full back to prevent the try, around five metres short.
Six minutes into the final 40, Ulster drove through the Quins defence in the centre of the pitch with Luke Marshall forcing his way over the line, and Cooney’s conversion gave the visitors a 3-17 lead.
And just over 10 minutes later, John Cooney added to his points scoring run, skipping his way through the Quins defence to score Ulster’s third of the game. His conversion brought the score to 3-24.
But a near immediate response from Quins, as Stephan Lewies scores his first try for Harlequins on the 62nd minute, after the initial run from Paul Lasike helped the tall lock on his way. Despite the referee reviewing a potential infringement in the build-up, the try was awarded and following Lang’s conversion Quins narrowed the score to 14 points, 10-24.
With only seven minutes left on the clock, Ulster’s Bill Johnston attempted to increase their lead even further, with an audacious drop goal attempt, which ended up well wide.
It wasn’t too long before the Ulster-men added more points, with Matt Faddes crossing the line in the corner for their bonus point try, capitalising on the momentum held for large parts of the second half. The conversion was missed, leaving the scored at 10-29.
However, the visitors weren’t done, and on the 79th minute replacement Tom O’Toole scored in a similar position to the previous try. Ulster’s Bill Johnston hit the post from the conversion, seeing the game end 10-34.
Harlequins visit Wasps in Gallagher Premiership action next weekend, before returning to South-West London for Big Game 12, a crucial clash between Leicester Tigers at Twickenham Stadium. Tickets are still available at tickets.quins.co.uk