Match report: Stade Francais too strong for Quins
November 10, 2007
A brave Harlequins performance came to nothing in Paris as Stade Francais found a greater cutting edge to secure a hard-fought bonus-point victory in Heineken Cup Pool C.
Quins battled gamely, and were the equals of the French champions for large parts of a heated contest, but the hosts demonstrated some superb finishing to get their European campaign off to a winning start.
Ugo Monye and De Wet Barry scored Harlequins tries in the second half, while Chris Malone added a conversion and a penalty. Substitute Adrian Jarvis also booted a conversion.
But Stade established a 17-3 lead after half an hour thanks to tries by Brian Liebenberg and Christophe Dominici, and scored two more late on through Julien Saubade and Mirco Bergamasco to grab all five points.
France fly-half David Skrela booted all five of his kicks - three penalties and two conversions - while Liebenberg added two more conversions.
The hosts, just two matches into their season, have been beaten just once at home in the Heineken Cup so it was always going to be a tough ask for Quins,returning to the competition after a two-year absence.
However, they would have taken heart from the fact Stade had 17 players injured for the game, while star Argentina back Juan Martin Hernandez had still not returned to action following his World Cup exertions.
And the visitors were first to trouble the scorers when Malone slotted over a 25-metre penalty after Stade's Pascal Pape was punished for his part in a scuffle with opposition lock Ollie Kohn.
Skrela replied with a penalty of his own in the 15th minute for the home side, who started sloppily but gradually assumed dominance and scored the game's opening try four minutes later.
Centre Liebenberg ran onto Pape's delayed pass with expert timing and sliced his way through from 25 yards out to ground near the posts.
An already incendiary atmosphere was further inflamed when an elbow on Mauro Bergamasco by Quins captain Paul Volley led to a 20-man brawl which tested the patience of Alain Rolland, the World Cup final referee.
Turnover ball following a crunching tackle on Quins fly-half Malone led to Stade's second try. Jerome Fillol picked up the pieces and, after good handlingby Mauro Bergamasco and Skrela, Dominici ran in a simple score.
Skrela converted again to make it 17-3.
Harlequins hit back in the third minute of the second half when Malone sent a high kick to the left corner for Monye, who caught well, crashed through Nicolas Jeanjean's tackle and dived over in the corner.
Malone converted from out wide but Skrela booted his second penalty moments later to give Stade a 10-point cushion.
Quins were giving as good as they were getting, but the flawless boot of Skrela was keeping them at arm's length and another well-struck penalty made it 23-10 on the hour mark.
A raft of substitutions interrupted the flow of the match before Saubade put the game to bed with a fine third try for Stade, the winger picking up some loose ball and slipping through the covering defence from 30 yards out.
Mirco Bergamasco sealed the bonus point for Stade by running in from 70 metres after more turnover ball, while Barry grounded a consolation try for Quins in injury time.
Stade Francais 37 (17)
Harlequins 17 (3)
Stade Francais: Jeanjean, Saubade, M. Bergamasco, Liebenberg, Dominici, Skrela, Fillol, Attoub, Blin, Weber, du Plooy, Pape, M. Bergamasco, Martin, Parisse.
Replacements: Szarzewski, Simutoga, Milton, Charlon, Bouhraoua, Messina, Bastareaud.
Harlequins: Brown, Strettle, Luscombe, Barry, Monye, Malone, Gomarsall, Jones, Fuga, Ross, Kohn, Evans, Robshaw, Volley, Easter.
Replacements: Brooker, Brooks, Spanghero, Hala'ufia, So'oialo, Jarvis, Masson.
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)