Quins show off their cup pedigree

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The Independent Online
Harlequins 28 Saracens 21

They have their critics, and their ups and downs in the Courage League, but eight semi-final appearances in the last 10 years speaks volumes about Harlequins' Cup pedigree. Saracens never gave up, despite the loss of key players, throughout an absorbing and entertaining Pilkington Cup quarter-final yesterday.

A near 8,000 crowd at The Stoop saw plenty of action, despite the fears of a mud bath. The pitch was understandably scarred after the previous day's rugby league Challenge Cup tie, but the groundstaff ensured it was serviceable and firm enough to support a reasonable amount of running rugby.

Try as they did, Saracens did not really pose too much of a threat. When they applied the pressure they were unable to direct it where it would most hurt.

In truth Quins were never in any serious trouble. If they had a problem in breaching the Saracens line initially, referee Steve Lander solved the dilemma by awarding a penalty try after three minutes of bump and grind and six scrums had failed to resolve anything. That and the first of Thierry Lacroix's two penalties left Saracens with some serious catching up to do.

Both back-rows were in tremendous form. Laurent Cabannes was everywhere, harrying the Saracen hordes, grub kicking, handling with mesmeric and magical skills. Not to be outdone, Tony Diprose and Francois Pienaar, until he went off shortly after the interval with a hamstring strain which may keep him out for up to a month, made themselves a nuisance to the home side.

Another overseas import, Michael Lynagh, had pulled Saracens to within seven points when he aggravated a calf injury that he had first felt in the first half. He limped off and with him departed the source of much of Saracens' ideas in the backs.

It was the former Australian Test fly-half who had inspired the Saracens' fightback just before half-time. A Lynagh restart was recycled and he hoofed the ball high. Back it came again, and this time he knocked a teasing ball over the line and Philippe Sella pounced before a Quin could get a hand to it. Then Lynagh left.

Shortly after his departure, and sandwiched between Will Carling's two tries, Harlequins struck a telling blow. Andy Tunningley's kick was gathered by Lacroix, slipped out to Cabannes who pounded some 40 yards upfield; Bill Davison took it on, then Alex Snow, before Daren O'Leary applied the finishing touch. Diprose's 62nd-minute effort, which replacement Andy Lee converted, kept Saracens at Quins' heels then Carling wrapped it up. Andy Lee's late penalty was just that, too late.

Harlequins: Tries Penalty try, Carling 2, O'Leary; Conversion Lacroix; Penalties Lacroix 2. Saracens: Tries Sella, Diprose; Conversions Lee; Penalties Lynagh 2, Lee.

Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary, W Carling, P Mensah, J Keyter; T Lacroix, H Harries; J Leonard (capt), P Delaney (T Billups, 67), L Benezech, A Snow, G O Llewellyn, R Jenkins, L Cabannes, B Davison.

Saracens: A Tunningley; R Wallace, P Sella, S Ravenscroft, K Chesney; M Lynagh (A Lee, 59), K Bracken; T Daley (A Olver, 60), C Olney, P Wallace, P Johns, T Copsey, G Clarke, F Pienaar (C Yandell, 43), A Diprose (capt).

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).