Rugby Union: Liley settles the score for Harlequins

London Scottish 33 Harlequins 37
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The Independent Online
A WEEK after their league challenge was in effect ended by London Irish, Harlequins needed all their new-found resilience to ensure that their cup hopes did not meet a similar fate at the hands of the capital's other exiles.

In a game of eight tries, both teams appeared to have taken a decisive lead in the second half before the plot took yet another twist to keep the result in the balance until the death. It was only a late flourish from the Harlequins stand-in fly-half, Rob Liley, that saw the visiting side home.

Despite missing the injured Zinzan Brooke and Thierry Lacroix and leaving Keith Wood on the bench, Quins took an early grip on the game. A quick break from Huw Harries was taken on by Daren O'Leary to create a penalty chance for John Schuster. And although Jannie de Beer soon replied with a three-pointer of his own, Quins pulled clear with a move started and finished by O'Leary. The right wing elected to run back a missed touchfinder from his own 22 and his cross-field sprint triggered a passage of play that saw the ball worked back across the field to set up a ruck on the right. Quick ball and O'Leary's decision to loiter on the left created the overlap and the try.

By the break, though, the entire picture had changed as Scottish rumbled back into the contest and took full advantage of Bill Davison's sin-binning for a late tackle on Nick Watson. Since his arrival from South Africa, De Beer's skill with the boot has installed him as the Exiles' top scorer. Here, though, he improved his tally by hand as Scottish punished a mistake by the Quins midfield. Ken Milligan's fly-hack and chase set up a scrum from which Rob Hunter and Eddie Jones combined to allow De Beer space to score.

Within five minutes Harlequins were a man short and paid an immediate price for electing to battle on with a seven-man pack. Rory Jenkins lost the argument over who would step forward into the breach at lock but his absence from the back-row helped create space for Simon Fenn to scramble over at the first scrum in which Scottish enjoyed a numerical advantage.

Harlequins limited the damage on the stroke of half-time with a try from Peter Mensah but Scottish restored their 12-point lead within a minute of the restart, Simon Holmes crashing over for De Beer to convert.

Cue another turnaround, as Quins then racked up 22 unanswered points in 15 minutes. Mensah was first across the line for his second try, converted by Liley, who was then driven over on the left for a score. He converted from the touchline as his side regained the lead.

Another Liley penalty swiftly followed by a try from the high-stepping Schuster looked to have settled affairs, but two more penalties from De Beer chipped away at the lead to set up an edgy final 10 minutes for Quins. Scottish steamed forward but the introduction of Wood ensured that the Harlequins line - and their Cup hopes - continued to lead a charmed life.

London Scottish: I McAusland (S Forrest, 40); K Milligan, R Davies, J Bonney, C Sharman (S Binns, 63); J de Beer, G Easterby; P Johnstone, D Cummins (D Rudhan, 40), P Burnell, E Jones, M Watson, S Fenn, R Hunter, S Holmes (capt).

Harlequins: J Williams; D O'Leary, P Mensah, J Schuster, D Luger; R Liley, H Harries; J Leonard, T Murphy (Capt)(K Wood, 76), A Yates (R Nebbett, 78), B Davison, G Llewellyn, R Jenkins, C Sheasby, A Leach.

Referee: A Rowden (RFU).

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