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Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
©INPHO/James Crombie Kieran Marmion tumbles ahead of Nick Easter.
AS IT HAPPENED
As it happened: Harlequins v Connacht, Heineken Cup
We had minute-by-minute coverage of the toughest task the western province would face this year.

Connacht (David) are at The Stoop this afternoon to take on Harlequins (Goliath).

Can they go all biblical on the Premiership side? Join us to find out.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the games.

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Harlequins 47 – 8 Connacht

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

We’re all set for another big day of European Cup action and first up is Eric Elwood’s Connacht who face Pool 3′s runaway leaders, Harlequins.

Conor O’Shea’s men have already beaten Connacht in this competition this season. Have they learned from their defeat at the Sportsground last January? Or will complacency creep in again?

We’ll know soon.

Voila, as they say round Twickenham, here are your teams:

Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, M Hopper, T Casson, U Monye; N Evans, D Care; J Marler, J Gray, J Johnston, O Kohn, G Robson, M Fa’asavalu, C Robshaw (c), N Easter.

Replacements: R Buchanan, M Lambert, W Collier, C Matthews, T Guest, K Dickson, B Botica, G Lowe.

Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; M Jarvis, K Marmion; D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White (c); M Swift, M McCarthy; A Browne, J O’Connor, E McKeon.

Replacements: E Reynecke, B Wilkinson, R Loughney, M Kearney, E Grace, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora, J Loxton.

KICK OFF: Nick Evans gets us off and running and ‘Quins get the ball back. But a knock-on gives Connacht a scrum just outside their own 22.

A bit of to-ing and fro-ing with that scrum, but the upshot is Connacht win a turnover and come away thanks to an incisive break down the left from  Robbie Henshaw.

The pass inside to Marmion forces the number nine to stretch, he retains but Quins slow the ball up and Connacht have to settle for a scrum.

The Premiership’s scrum has already shown its superiority and every time the eight clash Connacht’s back-line ends up having to back-peddle.

PENALTY: Harlequins 3 – 0 Connacht (Evans ’8)

Browne penalised after contesting possession on the right wing. Nick Evans looks on form with a fine early effort bisecting the posts.

Connacht reclaim the restart and pour toward the try-line. With an advantage in the offing for holding on in the tackle, Connacht look to have numbers on the right when Griffin attempts to squeeze through the gap but gets isolated.

PENALTY: Harlequins 3 – 3 Connacht (Jarvis ’11)

PENALTY: Harlequins 6 – 3 Connacht (Evans ’13)

The home side hit back instantly as Jarvis cancels out his nerve-settling kick by going off his feet. Easy one for Evans.

‘Side entry and he used his hands’ says the referee after Connacht infringe on another ruck after big hit from Michael Swift runed things a little messy.

‘Quins go down the line, but from the line-out they end up juggling the ball a bit on the right. Eventually, the loose hands tell and Connacht can settle things with a scrum.

Mick Kearney has come into the game for Connacht.. His presence is due to injury, I think to Eoin McKeon, but will confirm.

Michael Swift also receiving treatment, but it’ll take more than a sore shoulder to take him out.

Smart play all round from O’Halloran, planting a foot in touch when collecting a long punt from Evans. it takes Connacht all the way back up to the 22.

The line-out is firing well and so is the back-line as they work a pre-set move for O’Halloran to break the line on first phase.

He makes it to within 10 metres, but the winger is penalised for holding on.

Quins beginning to hold onto the ball for longer – the possession was 25% to 75%  in Connacht’s favour after 10 minutes – and win another penalty within Evans’ range, but he has missed this one to the left.

Connacht confirm, McKeon is off injured.

Connacht doing very well to negate this much heavier ‘Quins pack. The boys in Sky are very impressed with O’Halloran and ‘reckon Pat Lam’s taking charge of a pretty good team’.

Nathan White gets a talking to as Connacht concede their seventh penalty (to one) of the game.

It’s well within Evans’ range, but he chips it down the line. Confident.

From there they go to the back and the maul gets diverted further towards the posts. But Connacht survive to live another phase.

Scrum v for ‘Quins, right in front of the posts.

Penalty TRY: Harlequins 13 – 3 Connacht

The first scrum produced a penalty for Harlequins against Denis Buckley.’Quins go again, keen to get on the road to a bonus point. They want to be top seeds – don’t they know Munster or Leinster could be eighth?

The laws of physics will always bring the Premiership side an advantage in that situation.

PENALTY: Harlequins 16 – 3 Connacht (Evans ’40)

Another scrum penalty, this time against White gives Evans a shot from just inside 40 metres.

HALF TIME: Harlequins 16 – 3 Connacht

Two more games are at half time at the minute including Toulon who are within 40 minutes of a quarter final spot (either by winning the pool or as a best runner-up).

Here’s how things are unfolding:

HALF TIME: Zebre 6 – 20 Biarritz

HALF TIME: Toulon 19 – 6 Cardiff Blues.

That boy Matt Jarvis… kicks off the second half at The Stoop.

A big job for Connacht now to limit a hungry pack.

TMO:

Super break from Mike Brown, cutting from the left over to put Tom ‘bloody’ Williams on a run to the corner.

He dives and grounds it while getting smashed by O’Halloran.

TRY: Harlequins 23 – 3 Connacht (Williams ‘ 41)

Barely needed a second replay, the infamous winger was a foot over the line before his knee was forced into touch. Another quality conversion from Evans.

Not great looking for Mike Swift, receiving treatment on his shoulder , but he’s soon up and back to the coalface.

Denis Buckley’s day must have felt longer than 43 minutes, he’s off now with Brett Wilkinson next into the firing line.

And Miah Nikora has 30 minutes to impress at number 10 in place of Matt Jarvis.

SIN BIN: The crowd have not forgotten Johnny O’Connor’s Wasps association. The roar for his punishment is extra-loud after he pulled Williams back off the ball when a Connacht phase had turned messy.

The hosts have really turned up the heat now and Evans attempts a chip through. It looked like a straight race between Vainikolo and Monye, but the touch judge insists the push was worth a yellow card.

SIN -BIN Vainikolo’s walk off means Connacht are down to 13 and they can’t last a phase before Quins spin the ball wide.

TRY: Harlequins 28 – 3 Connacht (Williams ‘ 53)

Michael Swift has been withdrawn to fight another day. Eoghan Grace is in the game.

Connacht showing good composure now to spend their time with 13 men in possession.

‘Quins are getting surprisingly riled for a side 25 points up and cruising to the quarters.

Joe Marler gets himself in a row with Reynecke and both are sent to the SIN BIN.

Connacht will have just over a minute to play 14 v 12.

Both O’Connor and Vainikolo are back on now after smart play from Eoin Griffin to chip behind Mike Browne. Henshaw’s attention forced a line-out and from there Connacht create a quick maul.

TRY: Harlequins 28 – 8 Connacht (O’Connor ’64)

The flanker, just off the naughty step feels the maul slowing and races around the open side for a try.

TRY: Harlequins 33 – 8 Connacht (Monye ’65)

That’s the job done for O’Shea’s men. Monye, who has been influential on and off the ball throughout this game, makes this all for himself, stepping and breaking the line on halfway to race all the way home.

Conversion missed, but ‘Quins won’t mind. They’ve pretty much secured a home quarter final.

Something odd is happening here, both teams appear to have 15 men on the field. Feels like a novelty after the past 19 or so minutes.

Both coaches have emptied the bench, so we’re in for a scrappy finish.

With 10 minutes remaining here and elsewhere, the scorelines look like this.

Zebre 6 – 27 Biarritz

Toulon 45 – 13 Cardiff Blues

It’s beginning to look very difficult for Connacht bodies to raise themselves after making a hit. Nikora’s kick is charged down and Connacht are on the back foot again with Tom Guest raiding through the gaps.

A near miss for Connacht as Williams intercepts a tame pass. He lacks the acceleration to get away and has to kick before he’s mauled out to touch. but after Nikora chases back to clear, ‘Quins take the set-piece quickly and Evans sends a grubber over the try-line…

TRY: Harlequins 40 – 8 Connacht (Lowe ’79)

.. replacement George Lowe was first to react and his fresh legs didn’t hurt either.

The clock has gone red, but the home side want a sixth try to put a gloss on the scoreboard and pummel the blue and white shirts.

TMO

Ah, TMO, it doesn’t really matter does it? Do you have to make this experience longer than it has to be?

TRY: Harlequins 47 – 8 Connacht (Botica ’84)

FULL TIME: Harlequins 47 – 8 Connacht

It’s all over at the stoop. The TMO eventually ruling that the fly-half did indeed sneak the ball onto the turf.

Conor O’Shea’s side is in the quarter-finals with a massive 24 points from five games.

Well, that was interesting, eh?

Harlequins in the end just proved too big, too powerful and too talented for Connacht to compete over a full 80-minute stretch. They will dust themselves down and head back to the Sportsground where their Heineken Cup journey will end (most likely with a win) against Zebre.

We’ll bring you a round-up this afternoon’s other games and also full live coverage of Leinster’s make or break home clash with Llanelli.

Confirmed — Connacht appoint Pat Lam to replace Eric Elwood

Job done: But Anscombe promises Ulster will add finishing touch in France

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