Chaos at the Stoop, as a fantastic contest concluded at the death with a Harlequins victory. The lead had changed hands throughout, especially in a second half that featured turn after turn. Exeter faced one passage of play, well after time and down to 13 men, but the final deed a penalty try at the umpteenth chaotic scrum settled the game in the home team’s favour five minutes after the clock had turned red.“It was one of our more important wins,” said Harlequins director of rugby Paul Gustard. “I was really impressed with the character of the team to keep going for the win when they could have settled for the draw.”
Repeatedly, Quins opted to scrum penalties, several after normal time with a three-point deficit and the posts beckoning. It was an all-out assault, which came off with that climactic penalty try. The bonus-point win takes Quins into the top six, from ninth, but Exeter remain clear at the top. Curiously, it was at the scrum they were found out, even as they ran in three fine tries with an aplomb more associated with Harlequins.
A penalty apiece, albeit with Exeter’s scrum starting to win favour for no obvious reason, maintained parity at the break. Neither Exeter’s ascendancy at the scrum nor the parity was to last long. Quins repeated the scrum-Care-Lasike routine to set up Tevita Cavubati from close range.
Cue the Simmonds brothers. Sam cut inside Lasike like the centre he might have been in another life for a dazzling break, which was improved when brother Joe ghosted past four more tacklers to the line to draw Exeter level. Three minutes later, and Sam broke again, Elvis Taione charged deep into Quins territory, before Joe ghosted through again, past three this time, for Exeter’s third.Exeter’s Phil Dollman goes over over in the first half.
Photograph: Patrick Khachfe/JMP/REX/Shutterstock
Alec Hepburn’s yellow card at the umpteenth scrum penalty reduced Exeter to 13 briefly, but there would be time for Devoto to return before the game was finally settled. The scrum splintered into chaos, and the referee marched to the sticks. An unsatisfactory way to win, perhaps, but appropriately dramatic.