Saturday, 18th January 2020 @ 15:15
Harlequins produced a performance to be proud of, despite ASM Clermont Auvergne claiming a 19-26 victory at The Stoop.
Clermont took an early lead, breaking away on the far side, but stopped by a last-ditch Ross Chisholm tackle. From the resulting play, a cross field kick from the French side saw Peter Betham catch the ball over the line for a straight-forward touchdown. Parra’s conversion gave Clermont a 0-7 lead after three minutes.
But Quins responded instantly as Cadan Murley broke through, tossing the ball to Alex Dombrandt who was in hot pursuit before passing to Luke Northmore who displayed outstanding handling to keep hold of the ball before putting his head down and crossing the line for his first Quins try. Brett Herron added the two and the scores were tied 7-7 after five minutes.
On the 10th minute, Clermont were awarded a penalty around 25 metres out, which Parra converted to restore the visitor’s lead to 7-10.
A beautiful line break from Aaron Morris nearly saw Quins through again, before Brett Herron’s territory kick after the breakdown almost caught out Parra who got lucky with the bounce. The imposing Quins defence prevailed and forced a skewed kick from Clermont, as Quins displayed real hunger in the early stages.
Clermont extended their lead on the 27th minute as big centre Apisai Naqalevu touched down in the corner after a spell of attacking play from the away side. Parra added the two to extend their lead to 7-17.
But again, a resilient Quins responded almost immediately after a powerful driving maul after the lineout saw Alex Dombrandt touch down, to the delight of the home crowd. Unfortunately, Herron couldn’t quite make the touch conversion as the scores stayed at 12-17 with less than 10 minutes to go of the first 40 minutes.
Two minute later, Parra thought he had extended the lead, but his penalty was just short. Ross Chisholm seemed almost through, before a last ditch tap tackle from the Clermont defence. Both sides entered the break at 12-17, after a spirited effort from Quins both sides of the ball.
Clermont took the first points of the second half, adding three from the tee with Parra slotting the penalty to give the visitors a 12-20 lead after 43 minutes.
In an attempt to further extend their lead, and secure a home quarter final, Clermont went for the posts again just inside the Quins half from the penalty. Parra had the legs to take the score to 12-23 nine minutes into the second half.
Parra increased Clermont’s lead again through the boot after being awarded a penalty on the 54th minute, giving them a 12-26 advantage.
But Quins responded through a stunning first try for the Club by Brett Herron, with the fly half producing a beautiful cheeky chip and chase before diving over the line. Despite the best efforts of the Clermont physio, Herron was not to be distracted and converted his own try, closing the gap to 19-26 just before the 60-minute mark.
With a loud and proud Twickenham Stoop crown behind them, the Harlequins side gave it their all in the final moments of the game, but Clermont edged a crucial victory for their European campaign, as Quins proudly rounded off their 2019/20 Heineken Champions Cup competition.
Harlequins return to The Stoop next weekend, hosting fierce London rivals Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership on Sunday 26 January (Kick Off 15:00). Tickets are selling fast, but still available at tickets.quins.co.uk