Williams try snatches late victory for Quins
February 21, 2009
Quins fly-half Nick Evans scored the opening try at the Stoop
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Gloucester have gone back to the top of the Guinness Premiership - but not in the manner that they wanted. A try four minutes from time by wing Tom Williams, awarded after television replays and converted by replacement stand-off Chris Malone, gave Harlequins a thrilling 14-9 victory at The Stoop.
However, the bonus point Dean Ryan's side picked up for the narrow defeat edged them a point ahead of Sale, who defeated Bristol on Friday. Malone was the one breathing the largest sigh of relief for Harlequins, still unbeaten at home since October, after he missed penalties in the 65th and 70th minutes.
All Gloucester's points came from the boot of centre Olly Barkley, while Harlequins had scored first with a try from Nick Evans that he converted himself. A superb long kick into touch by fullback Mike Brown set up the first of a series of Harlequins attacks, which eventually led to a sixth-minute penalty Evans pulled left of the posts.
That brought a moan from the home supporters in the sell-out 12,638 crowd, but just two minutes later Evans was receiving their cheers when he broke through from halfway and, with Iain Balshaw unable to make the tackle, touched down under the posts.
Barkley failed to cut the gap with a long-range penalty shortly afterwards, but did so from closer and straighter in the 15th minute. A clearance kick from Barkley then nearly resulted in a Gloucester try five minutes later. With the Quins defence thin on the ground James Simpson-Daniel and Henry Trinder were almost sure to score if they gathered. However, the bounce of the ball evaded Simpson-Daniel and Trinder knocked on.
Evans missed a second penalty before Barkley found the target again after 29 minutes. That made it 7-6 at the break.
At Kingsholm in September Gloucester, ninth in the table then, had come back from 13-5 down at the interval to win 24-20 and knock Harlequins off top spot. Malone came on for Evans when the teams re-emerged, while Gloucester were quickly forced into a change, Anthony Allen replacing the injured Trinder.
When Barkley landed his third penalty after 47 minutes the visitors led for the first time. The two captains were then spoken to by referee Dave Pearson - more easily identifiable after changing at half-time from a green to a yellow shirt - as things heated up between the two packs.
Malone should have put Quins back in front with 15 minutes remaining when Pearson changed his awarding of a scrum five metres out to a penalty, presumably for something said, but he fluffed the chance. When he missed another opportunity after 70 minutes Harlequins must have feared it was not going to be their day. But there was to be a late twist.
There was still time after the Williams score for Gloucester to snatch it back, but some ferocious tackling kept them out.
"The beauty of it is that everybody buys into the way we want to play," said Harlequins boss DeanRichards. "There's no point scoring a lot if we leak a lot as well. It's testament to our defence and to the coaches. It was important to win today for a number of reasons. First we are at home and we enjoy playing in front of what I think is a fantastic crowd. And looking at it from a league perspective it's vital we win these games to keep our hopes alive. It would be very nice to get into the play-offs and there's an opportunity for us to do it."
Gloucester boss Dean Ryan was hugeley disappointed with his side's display and their seeming inability to cope with pressure environments.
"We worked hard enough to win, but when we keep putting ourselves under pressure these things are going to happen," he said. "We have a responsibility to get ourselves out of there. The last thing I want is this side to be a kicking side, but you have to protect yourself and we are just not doing it well enough.
"We did get a bonus point away from home, but I'm frustrated because I want this side to be so much better. I'm not one to analyse the last minute. Our faults lay earlier in the game."
Harlequins: Brown; Strettle, Tiesi, Turner-Hall, Williams; Evans, Gomarsall; Ceri, Botha, Ross, Kohn, Robson, Robshaw, Skinner (captain), Guest
Replacements: Croall, Lambert, Evans, McMillan, Poluleuligaga, Malone, Monye
Gloucester: Balshaw; Sharples, Trinder, Barkley, Simpson-Daniel; Spencer, Lawson; Wood, Titterrell, Somerville, Bortolami, Brown, Narraway, Hazell, Delve (captain)
Replacements: Azam, Dickinson, Eustace, Satala, Lamb, Allen, Foster