Botica the difference as Quins get sweet revenge

Connacht 22 Harlequins 30

The Sportsground

Harlequins gained revenge for last season's Heineken Cup exit, but they were made to battle all the way at the Sportsground in Galway by a brave Connacht side.

In the end, the class and experience of the Premiership champions secured a hard-earned win which keeps Quins top of Pool Three and on course for a quarter-final spot, with back-to-back matches against inexperienced Italian side Zebre to come in December.

These two sides managed only 17 points between them when they clashed in the wind and rain in Galway in January, but there were 43 points on the scoreboard by the interval on a dry evening here.

At one stage Connacht surged 10 points clear with the wind behind them, but Harlequins hauled them back and posted 15 points in the final 10 minutes of the opening half.

The English champions kept ball in hand and built the phases well, but Connacht, as Harlequins discovered when they were knocked out in January with that 9-8 result, can make the most of limited possession to frustrate their opposition. That was illustrated with a possession statistic after 14 minutes which showed Quins had 85 per cent of the possession – but still trailed 10-6.

Ben Botica continued his fine form from last weekend with a fifth-minute penalty but his side were rocked a minute later when Dan Parks put Dave McSharry through from 25 metres for a try which Parks converted.

The former Scotland player continued to direct operations for Connacht, putting his scrum-half Kieran Marmion away with another excellent line-break which yielded another penalty, as Parks made it 16-9 after 25 minutes after Botica had pulled back a couple of penalties for Quins in response to another Parks effort.

Fetu'u Vainikolo cut a good break through the Quins defence for a 28th-minute penalty opportunity which made it 19-9, and the home crowd warmed themselves up for another shock win.

But Quins didn't panic. They continued to build the phases, going lateral and making the hard yards and, inevitably, they got over on the half-hour when scrum-half Danny Care broke on the blindside off a scrum in the 22 to score.

They surged forward after that and while Jordan Turner Hall was held by a desperate home defence, Care sniped off the ruck to score his second try. Botica added the points from the conversion this time and also landed a penalty on the stroke of half-time to send them in 24-19 to the good.

Early second-half pressure saw Parks reduce the deficit to two with his fifth penalty. But Conor O'Shea's men refused to panic, and while their possession game rarely Botica extended the lead with a 50-metre penalty after 56 minutes to restore their five-point lead.

He pushed them outside of losing bonus-point territory for Connacht when he landed his sixth penalty of the night, this time from 45 metres, to make it 30-22 after 63 minutes, with their capitain Chris Robson leading the way as Quins closed out the game.

Connacht R Henshaw; T O'Halloran, E Griffin (M Fifita, 65), D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley (B Wilkinson, 64), A Flavin (J Harris-Wright, 64), N White (R Loughney, 68); M Swift (E McKeon, 64), M McCarthy (N Kikora, 76); J Muldoon, W Faloon (J O'Connor, 57), G Naoupu.

Harlequins M Brown; T Williams, M Hopper, J Turner-Hall, S Smith; B Botica, D Care; J Marler, R Buchanan, J Johnson; O Kohn (C Matthews, 73, G Robson; M Fa'asavalu (T Guest, 67) , C Robshaw, N Easter

Referee Jerome Garces.

Attendance 8,500.

Connacht

Try: McSharry

Con: Parks

Pens: Parks 5

Harlequins

Tries: Care 2

Con: Botica

Pens Botica 6

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before