Monye's mixed display leaves Quins facing exit

Harlequins 19 Toulouse 23
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The Independent Online

Ugo Monye says he is a player who likes to play rugby with a smile on his face, but Harlequins supporters would not have known whether to laugh or cry at his erratic performance at the Stoop on Saturday.

Monye's ability to cause panic in either defence was evident in a rousing first Heineken Cup match at this ground since Quins' controversial defeat by Leinster in April.

The England and Lions winger displayed a finisher's instinct to score two outstanding tries, but he looked vulnerable when, in the second half, Toulouse overturned a 14-point deficit and notch a second successive win against English opposition.

The positives outweighed the negatives in Monye's uneven display, but only just. His strength and acceleration left three tacklers trailing in his wake when he came off his wing to score a scorching opener.

Monye then outpaced the defence to latch on to Mike Brown's perfectly weighted grubber kick which briefly restored Harlequins' lead midway through the second half. But Monye and Brown got themselves in a terrible muddle trying to deal with an up-field punt from Maxime Médard, Monye fumbled and Yves Donguy capitalised to begin the Toulouse fight-back.

"The good things in my game were the two tries. I was really happy with the way I finished them," Monye said.

On his defensive lapses, he added: "The fortunate thing is that they are basic errors which you shouldn't make but at least they are easily put right."

A spell at full-back in the first month of the season, while Brown was out with a wrist injury, has developed Monye's self-analysis and tactical awareness. "You put yourself under a bit more pressure when you play at full-back," he said. "It also gives you more appreciation of what you need on the wing. You are certainly under the microscope a bit more because you are out there on your own at times."

Against lesser opponents Harlequins might have got away with the odd error, but not Toulouse. When Danny Care stumbled trying to follow up his own chip late in the first half, it did not appear a costly lapse. Instead it proved to be a decisive turning point as it prevented Harlequins converting a handy lead into a match-winning one.

The presence of Guy Noves, Toulouse head coach, on the pitch when his players came out for the second half, suggested the visitors would not be as supine as they had been in the first half. Within eight minutes they were on level terms as Shaun Sowerby followed up Donguy's try with a close-range effort.

Three penalties from different kickers – Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, Frédéric Michalak and Florian Fritz – completed the fight-back and left Harlequins facing elimination at the group stage.

Scorers: Harlequins: Tries Monye (2); Penalties N Evans (3). Toulouse: Tries Donguy, Sowerby; Conversions Elissalde (2); Penalties Elissalde, Michalak, Fritz.

Harlequins: M Brown (R Clegg, 76); D Strettle, G Tiesi, T Masson, U Monye (G Lowe, 76); N Evans, D Care; C Jones, T Fuga, M Lambert (J Andress, 64), L Stevenson (S O'Connor, 68), J Evans, C Robshaw, W Skinner (capt, T Guest, 9), N Easter.

Toulouse: M Médard; V Clerc, Y David (L Picamoles, 54), Y Jauzion, Y Donguy; J-B Elissalde (F Michalak, 61), B Kelleher; J-B Poux (D Human, 2), W Servat (A Vernet Basualdo, 78), B Lecouls (C Johnston, 54), R Millo-Chluski (G Lamboley, 67) P Albecete, Y Nyanga (J Bouilhou, 11), T Dusautoir (capt), S Sowerby (F Fritz, 54).

Referee: A Rolland (Ireland).

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