Care marks 350th with vital Champions Cup win for Harlequins
24th Jan 2023 | Local Sport
Harlequins claimed a vital Heineken Champions Cup victory this weekend as they secured a spot in the Last 16 in Europe with a 39-29 victory over South African side the Cell C Sharks.
Against a star-studded Sharks side, Quins were off to a worrying start at first, with the visiting side's outside centre Lukhanyo Am combining with left wing Thaakir Abrahams to tear through the Harlequin defence, with the winger feeding back inside to Am for a second-minute score. Fly-half Curwin Bosch's conversion sailed wide, meaning it was a five-point lead for the South Africans. An early warning shot from the visitors.
Gracing his 350th appearance with a flawless start, Danny Care fooled a defender on the Sharks' line with a feign right before darting inside and over for Quins' retaliatory try once Josh Bassett and co had eaten up metres down the left side of the pitch. Smith added the conversion to take Quins into the lead by two points.
Eventual Star of the Match Nick David, keen to get in on the fun, found similar success down the left flank as he cut free through the Sharks' defensive line. The outside back took it to within the 22 before popping possession inside to captain and number eight Alex Dombrandt for Quins' second. Smith with the kick again meant Quins held a 14-5 lead after 10 minutes.
After Quins were surprisingly penalised after melting the opposition front row, Bosch kicked his first successful kick of the day with a penalty that took Quins' lead from nine to six.
Wing Cadan Murley piled in with a third score as fellow wing Josh Bassett punched a hole in the midfield, with quick hands from Smith and David sending the recent England call-up over in the right corner. Peerless kicking from Smith took Quins to 21-8 after 20 minutes.
A Sharks reply came as scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse benefitted from a monstrous carry from right winger Marnus Potgieter down the right touchline, sprinting into the corner to finish a tight score after his teammate burst one tackler before burning through Quins territory. The conversion was successful for the Sharks, reducing the deficit to six points.
Smith added a penalty to make it 24-15 before a moment of opportunism from the Sharks' hulking Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth saw the forward poach a ball from the back of a Quins ruck, allowing the visitors to reduce the deficit to just two points at half-time.
A captain's score got Harlequins' second half chugging along nicely. After a kick to the corner by Smith set up a driving maul five metres from the Sharks line, fit-again second row and Club Captain Stephan Lewies peeled off to dive into the corner for an all-important bonus-point score as he extended the lead to seven points once Smith added the conversion.
Securing his Star of the Match award, David claimed the try of the day with a sensational individual performance. Regathering a short kick from Sharks' wing Abrahams deep within the Quins 22, the fullback sent a grubber of his own through the Sharks' line, regathering before sprinting in untouched for second and Quins' fifth. Another Smith conversion made it 36-22 with just over 25 minutes left to play.
Smith added a penalty soon after to extend the lead to 17 points.
Attempting to overturn a boisterous Quins team, the Sharks struck back with a late score for winger Potgieter as the backline manifested space down the right touchline with some slick attacking shapes. Bosch added the conversion to make it a ten-point game. Quins held on tight to the final result and a five-point win, qualifying for the Last 16. The team await the rest of the weekend's results to confirm their opposition, which will be an away fixture.
Final score: Harlequins 39 – 29 Cell C Sharks