Benade leaves Quins in shock

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The Independent Online

There was shock on the faces of the Harlequins players after a stunning turnaround which saw them lose utterly and emphatically the second half of a generally dull match against Treviso; but it was only what they deserved. Too often Harlequins blow hot and cold, and their Heineken Cup match at The Stoop served as a perfect example.

There was shock on the faces of the Harlequins players after a stunning turnaround which saw them lose utterly and emphatically the second half of a generally dull match against Treviso; but it was only what they deserved. Too often Harlequins blow hot and cold, and their Heineken Cup match at The Stoop served as a perfect example.

Harlequins mixed their game up, from bursts of outright class to the downright crass. Take the interception by Jacques Benade of Quins' captain Will Carling's pass. Benade had a straightforward run to the line, scored under the posts and thereby let Treviso back into a match they were starting to look like losing heavily.

A basic error, a failure to release the ball in the tackle, saw the replacement kicker Corrado Pilat draw them closer still. Then came more unnecessary pressure when Jason Keyter was penalised for a late tackle on Treviso right wing Massimiliano Perzano. It was within range and Pilat, who had taken over the goal-kicking duties from Benade, landed the resultant kick and they were level.

Benade then found the room to land a drop goal and Treviso had completed a famous comeback, turning around a 3-19 deficit into a remarkable victory. Tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of the few Italians in a sparse crowd. It is heads that are more likely to roll at the next Harlequins selection meeting.

It was Keyter who unlocked the Treviso defence, but it took the home team until the first minute of injury time to pick their way upfield and through the determined Italian defence.

Treviso were more adept at the rucks and clearly wanted to spin the ball wide as often as possible. They did not miss a trick around the fringes and in broken play, though. Too frequently a Harlequin would take the ball up into contact only to see it emerge on the other side.

A turgid first half had ended promisingly for Harlequins when Keyter got a toe to a loose ball and touched it into space, gathered the ball and cut infield, shipping it to David Officer before Daren O'Leary took up the running. His clever little low chip forced a Treviso defender to hoof the ball into touch.

At that point the hooker Colin Ridgway gave the lie to forwards being slow-witted. He took a quick throw and the giant Australian lock Garrick Morgan lunged over, Gareth Rees adding the touchline conversion.

As satisfactory as the end of the first half was for Harlequins, the rest of it was far too patchy. Too often the hard work of Chris Sheasby and Zinzan Brooke was wasted by silly options, or worse, by a feeble turnover of possession to the eager but generally naive Italians.

Thankfully Benade, Treviso's fly-half, was woefully off-target, landing just one penalty out of three attempts and missing two attempted drop goals to boot.

If those had all gone over, Quins would have been in a bit of a pickle, despite the accuracy of Rees' boot. He had knocked over all three of his penalties and there had also been a simple drop goal for Rob Liley.

But the Italians began the second half spiritedly, and more purposefully, their rapid recycling giving the Harlequins defence all kinds of unwelcome problems as player after player probed for the line, and as Quins lifted each subsequent siege there was another to see out.

It was impossible not to shake off the impression that Harlequins were being too casual and yet all they had to their name was a draw in their opening Pool Five match at Cardiff. They need to inject some urgency and purpose into the rest of their European programme. They also need a miracle to progress to the knockout stages.

Harlequins: G Rees; J Keyter, D Officer, W Carling (capt), D O'Leary; R Liley (J Schuster, 65-72), P Richards; J Leonard, C Ridgway (T Murphy, 61), D Barnes, G Morgan, G Llewellyn (S White-Cooper, 77), Z Brooke, C Sheasby (R Jenkins, 69), P Sanderson.

Treviso: C Pilat; M Perziano, M Dallan (T Visentin, 41), J Wright, A Common; J Benade, A Moore; G Grespan (N de Meneghi, 75), A Moscardi (S Saviozzi, 61), F Properzi-Curti (G Fauva, 75), W Visser, A Gritti, C Checchinato, A Richter, A Sgorlon (capt; O Orancio, 61).

Referee: A Watson (Ireland).

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