Skinner leads from the front to keep Quins' backs flying high

Harlequins 42 Ulster 21
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The Independent Online

Leicester missed a trick when they allowed Will Skinner to join Harlequins. The openside flanker is proving to be an inspired choice as captain of a young, dynamic side that is hell bent on playing a style of game of which Adrian Stoop himself would have approved.

Skinner is also an integral part, with Nick Easter and Chris Robshaw, of an impressive back row. With the scrum-half Danny Care buzzing around like a bluebottle on speed, it was all too much for Ulster as Quins scored six tries to join Stade Français at the top of Pool Four. "Le Crunch" arrives in December when the Londoners travel to Paris before Stade visit the Stoop.

Care, who has become a leading try scorer, maintained his strike rate by going over at the posts in the first half. It was a clever variation of a lineout move as Easter broke from the tail and was not something the Ulster defence had bargained for but then Quins have established a number of smart moves which can produce tries from set-pieces.

It was Care who inevitably hogged the headlines before his appearance was cut short by a yellow card in the 50th minute – 10 minutes later, Andy Gomarsall took over – but Dean Richards, the director of rugby, reserved most praise, not for the in-form No 9, but Easter and, in particular, Skinner (right).

Formerly a No 8, Richards is most comfortable talking about a back row but by modern standards his captain is on the small side. "He's no smaller than Tom Rees," Richards countered. "England should have a look at him."

They did. Martin Johnson, the England manager, was here, along with Brian Smith and if the Red Rose backs coach was making notes it would have made interesting reading. Care may be in the form of his life but he has an Achilles heel – he can't kick for toffee. He can run like a sprite but when he attempts to find touch out of defence – forget it.

There were others to catch Smith's eye: the powerful centre Jordan Turner-Hall, right wing Tom Williams and full-back Mike Brown, none of whom may be the finished article but who epitomise the ambition and new found spirit at the club. Between them they scored four tries and Brown's, from a Williams chip, was an outstanding piece of finishing.

Chris Malone, who has been an able deputy for the injured Nick Evans, will revert to the bench in the coming weeks as the All Black prepares to resume his half-back partnership with Care. That is something else for Quins to look forward to.

Harlequins: Tries Turner-Hall, Williams 2, Care, penalty, Brown; Conversions Malone 3; Penalties Malone 2. Ulster: Tries Nagusa, Wallace, Trimble; Conversions O'Connor 3.

Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, U Monye (T Masson, 58), J Turner-Hall, C Amesbury; C Malone (W Luveniyali, 71), D Care (A Gomarsall, 62); C Jones, G Botha (T Fuga, 62), M Ross (M Lambert, 67), O Kohn (G Robson, 62), J Evans, C Robshaw (T Guest, 66), N Easter, W Skinner (capt).

Ulster: B Cunningham; T Nagusa, D Cave, P Wallace (R Dewey, 67), A Trimble; N O'Connor (I Humphreys, 62), C Willis (I Boss, 67); T Court (J Fitzpatrick, 46), R Best (capt) (N Brady 71), B Botha, C Del Fava (E O'Donoghue, 46), R Caldwell, M McCullough, R Diack, D Pollack (K Dawson, 52).

Referee: T Hayes (Wales).

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