Zebre 14-57 Harlequins, Heineken Cup, December 8
Harlequins thrash sorry Zebre
December 8, 2012
Sam Smith grabbed two scores for Harlequins
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Harlequins put eight tries on Zebre as they downed the Italian side 57-14 in the Heineken Cup on Saturday.
Sam Smith scored a brace with Nick Easter, Matt Hopper, Rob Buchanan and Ben Botica also among the scorers for Conor O'Shea's high fliers, who also managed two scrum penalty tries. The most Zebre could manage on a bitterly cold day was a first-half breakaway try by Leonardo Sarto and a late consolation for Alberto Chillon.
With Biarritz losing to Connacht last night, Quins' destiny now lies in their own hands and victory in next week's return against Zebre will effectively seal their passage through to the quarter-finals. Harlequins were good value for their win and barely had to break sweat for some of their tries.
The first came for Smith on 26 minutes, a routine dash for the corner after the Zebre defence had been stretched on the back of a Maurie Fa'asavalu turnover. Evans converted, adding to an earlier penalty, and already it looked as though the game was up for a desperately limited Zebre side, who failed to get out of their own half in the opening half hour.
Things went from bad to worse for the hapless Italians when serial offender Mauro Bergamasco was sent to the sin-bin for a ruck offence. With that it looked as though the floodgates would open, and Smith helped himself to a second try after linking superbly with Tom Williams.
Again Evans converted to leave Quins 17-0 up and coasting. Complacency cost Quins as they went in search of a third try before half-time, and it was Zebre who instead struck next, Sarto racing away after one too many passes cost Quins.
It was shortlived joy for Zebre, and Quins were back in business within three minutes of the restart as Easter bagged their third try after the visiting forwards wrestled the home pack into submission. Danny Care, Hopper and Mike Brown all went close to adding a fourth, but in the end it was the forwards that took the plaudits, forcing a penalty try after dominating the home scrum.
They would do so again later in the half as Zebre went into meltdown, and sandwiched in between was a fine individual try by Hopper, who showed great footwork to outmanoeuvre the home defence. He was eclipsed shortly after, however, by substitute prop Buchanan, who scored with practically his first touch after another irresistible attack by rampant Quins.
A late try by Chillon proved scant consolation for a disillusioned Zebre, and it was left to another substitute, Botica, to wrap up the scoring for Quins.
And post-match, Quins boss Conor O'Shea refused to gate carried away despite seeing his team emerge comfortable victors. "It's one of those ones where you're dammed if you do and dammed if you don't," O'Shea said. "Of course there is ambition in the club, but people will write today's result off as irrelevant. And they are more than entitled to do just that.
"All we can do is to continue playing as a team, and make sure we are in control of our own destiny. When we lose games we don't get carried away, and it's the same when we win. "It's about being in with a shout come April and May.
"You can come here and do an unprofessional job and cause yourself problems which eventually come home to roost. But I was pleased that we did a professional job in very difficult conditions. To score eight tries against a team that stubborn is no mean feat."
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