Amlin Challenge Cup
Harlequins seal semi-final spot
April 4, 2014
Harlequins' Mike Brown scored a try in the second half
© Getty Images
Nick Evans steered Harlequins into an all-English Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final as he notched 17 points in a 29-6 victory over Stade Francais in Paris.
In a repeat of the 2011 final, which Quins won with a last-gasp try and touchline conversion, the decision by Gonzalo Quesada not to pick his top team certainly played a part in the home side's downfall.
But his opposite number, Quins director of rugby Conor O'Shea, sent in his full compliment and told them to play with adventure. They tried and failed in a first half of five penalties but took a more direct route to victory after the turnaround.
Two penalties apiece from Evans and home outside-half Morne Steyn meant the scores were level as the clock went into the red zone at the end of the first half. But a penalty on the fringe of a ruck allowed Evans to land a 40-metre penalty to give his side a slender lead at the break.
Steyn missed with a second shot within two metres of the restart before England full-back Mike Brown struck the decisive blow of the game with a try in the 45th minute that owed everything to the direct, driving approach work of Dave Ward, Chris Robshaw and Nick Easter.
Evans added the conversion to increase the lead to 13 points and the only advantage Stade could manage was at the scrum. But they could not turn that pressure into any more points, a third penalty going past the posts from replacement Vincent Mallet.
Evans added a penalty just before the hour mark to turn the screw tighter and then Nick Evans dropped a long-range goal to make the game safe. Tim Molenaar put the icing on the cake with a try three minutes from time which Ben Botica converted off the touchline.
Quins, who started the season in the Heineken Cup, are three time winners of the Amlin Challenge Cup and will now have to go to Franklin's Gardens to try to stay on course for a fourth title.
There are three other English Premiership sides in the quarter-finals. Bath host Brive on Sunday and then London Wasps host Gloucester.
Stade Francais' Clement Daguin vies with fly half Nick Evans © Getty Images
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