Burke bolsters Quins' cushion

Harlequins 41 Brive 8

Brive's Parc Municipal des Sports is never the easiest of places for visiting teams yet yesterday Harlequins made their visit next Sunday look rather less daunting after this comprehensive thrashing.

However uncomfortable Quins find the return, they will have a plump cushion to take with them for the second leg of this Parker Pen Challenge Cup quarter-final. It certainly underlined the English dominance of this competition - the trophy has not left these shores for the last three seasons.

Quins found it tough at times though, especially early on, despite an electrifying start with a try inside the first minute. An unsympathetic and error-prone referee did not help the home cause, awarding knock-ons, for example, against the home side when Frenchmen lost the ball in rugged tackles by Quins, and blowing up both sides for a bewildering array of unidentifiable offences which frustrated the crowd no end. Four players - two from each side - went to the sin-bin.

But when they finally got going Quins looked mustard. Right wing George Harder collected two tries, but it was teamwork which won the day. Fly-half Paul Burke landed four penalties and converted three of four tries.

That opening try had promised so much more though. Quins worked upfield, so well organised that the French could do nothing to stop them. Once within striking distance lock Jim Evans took the ball up, it was recycled and swung right. Harder got his hands on it and looked outside, the opposition followed his gaze and the grateful Samoan slipped through. It took 43 seconds.

But they had to endure a further 40-odd minutes before they pulled clear, Harder crossing for his second following some brilliant passing between Burke and scrum-half Simon Keogh. Then hooker Tani Fuga was sent over by Burke and Keogh wrapped up a fine display with a solo effort, breaking clear at a scrum and sprinting 45 metres on a diagonal to score.

Brive did pull back a try midway through the second half to add to their solitary penalty, but a 33-point gap looks good enough to steer Quins safely through to the semi-finals of a tournament they won in 2001 - beating Brive at the same stage, in a one-off tie in the forbidding Parc Municipal.

Harlequins: G Duffy; G Harder, C Bell, M Deane, U Monye (S Bemand, 65); P Burke (A Dunne, 78), S Keogh; C Jones(M Worsley, 56), T Fuga, J Leonard (L Gomez, 65), K Rudzki (B Davison, 56), J Evans, A Tiatia (A Diprose, 56), A Vos (capt), P Sanderson.

Brive: J Carrat (N Couttet, 60); J Laharrague, C Leite, T Bowker, J Narves; S Laloo (A Penaud, 57), J Pejoine (V Courrent, 57); E Bouti, B Bassoul (J Djoudi, 57), L Pakihivatau (P Capdevielle, 52), E Amapakabo (X Naulleau, 75), J Welborn, A Maleyrie (J Djoudi, 40-48), S Azoulai, J Bonvoisin (capt).

Referee: H Watkins (Wales)