Harlequins 22 Exeter Chiefs 6 match report: David Ward looks right at home as he makes sure Quins stay on course

The hosts, who had moved the match across from the Stoop, led 19-3 at the break but were unable to add a crucial fourth try


The Harlequins resurgence continued at Twickenham yesterday yet a lingering sense of dissatisfaction will remain. A wonderful first half, full of corruscating rugby – from both sides – was followed by a more pedestrian second period in which the hosts failed to force home their advantage and take the bonus point which at one stage seemed there for the asking.

The sense of occasion did not fail; more than 74,000 followers packed out headquarters for Big Game Six, if not to the rafters, and few would complain they did not get their money’s worth. On the other hand, Exeter Chiefs will feel they did not do themselves justice on as big a stage as any of them have ever played.

They could not prevent Harlequins dominating the breakdown. Their afternoon could be summed up in the first three minutes of the match during which the whistle did not blow once: Exeter made their way 40 metres upfield from the kick-off, only to lose possession, Danny Care kicked them back to where they had started and Harlequins worked a yawning overlap for Nick Evans to score the first try.

“We played some magnificent  rugby but the last quarter became a bit disjointed,” Conor O’Shea, the Harlequins director of rugby, said. “But after the start we had to the season, the truck load of injuries we have had and still have, we’re still top four and we will get stronger.”

The latent strength of the London club lies in a player such as David Ward, whose wanderings have brought him to the right place. He started the season as third-choice hooker behind Joe Gray and Rob Buchanan but when those two return from injury, they will be hard pressed to displace Ward, whose man of the match award was utterly deserved.

The Harlequins scrum had the upper hand for 70 minutes but it was in the loose that Ward excelled. He plays like a back-row forward, his carrying gave his forwards a target and his work at the breakdown could not be bettered; the fact that he played a vital role in all three tries speaks volumes.

“Harlequins knocked us out of our stride and we didn’t do anything to turn that situation around,” Rob Baxter, Exeter’s head coach, said. Baxter looks likely to be without Brett Sturgess going into the new year, the replacement prop needing lengthy attention to a damaged knee as the game ended, and he knows his players have to rediscover their confidence if they are to stay in touch with the top four.

After Evans had given Harlequins the best possible start, the Harlequins offence was relentless. That an old stager (at 35) such as Nick Easter is such a key ingredient of their running and passing game says a lot about the No 8’s desire, even if it is unlikely to carry him back into England contention. Graham Rowntree, the England forwards coach, watched yesterday’s game and his eye will have been taken by Ward and Luke Wallace as much as anyone.

Those two, along with Easter, made the running down the left which led to the second try. The forwards surged towards the Exeter 22, then the backs took up the running and Matt Hooper’s long pass gave Charlie Walker the chance to sidestep Tom Johnson and stretch away to the corner. It was a bad moment for Exeter, since they lost Jack Nowell to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on Hopper just after he passed to Walker.

The young wing may have felt hard done by, since he tried to let Hopper down and Baxter failed to see the difference between that tackle and an earlier one by Hopper himself on Jason Shoemark which earned only a penalty. Arguably, Harlequins should have enjoyed a greater advantage, since Mike Brown tried to finish how own break with a dummer to Walker but was tackled short with his wing clear.

But Brown scored in Nowell’s absence on the stroke of half-time after Ward robbed Ben White of possession. Danny Care sprinted away from Gareth Steenson and Brown was on hand to finish. If only the second period had been quite as silky smooth but the only X Factor thereafter was that provided by the finalists of the TV talent show.


Harlequins: M Brown; C Walker, M Hopper, T Casson (B Botica, 79), S Smith (O Lindsay-Hague, 74); N Evans, D Care (K Dickson, 56); J Marler (M Lambert, 64), D Ward, W Collier (P Doran-Jones, 64), C Matthews (N Kennedy, 61), G Robson, L Wallace (T Guest, 74), C Robshaw (capt), N Easter.

Exeter Chiefs: L Arscott; J Nowell (sin bin 32-42), I Whitten, J Shoemark, T James (F Vainikolo, 54); G Steenson (H Slade, 61), H Thomas (W Chudley, 33); B Moon (B Sturgess, 61), J Yeandle (C Whitehead, 52), H Tui (A Brown, 61), D Mumm (capt), D Welch (J Hanks, 54), T Johnson, B White, D Ewers (K Horstmann, 74).

Referee: J P Doyle (London).


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada