What else would you expect of Harlequins? For tinsel and turkey, read Quins and the cup, and of course the multi-coloured ones scored a try in the last minute of normal time to see off opponents who had convincingly won here in the league earlier in the season. Leeds were added to the likes of Leicester, twice, and Bath in recent seasons: an ever-growing list of teams who find the Stoop so tough to conquer when it comes to the knockout punch.
Matches like this make the nine-month haul to discover the winners of the Premiership seem like a long and winding road to nowhere. Why wait all that time, when a mere four-match winning run offers the eventual winners of the Powergen Cup the shortest possible route into Europe, and so concentrates minds that two teams serve up such a treat as this sixth-round tie? Even the referee, Steve Lander, was smiling at the end; no mean feat considering the hearty boos that greeted him in a reminder of his part as touch judge in Quins' cup final defeat by Newcastle in 2001.
For 79 minutes, Leeds survived thrust after thrust from a Quins pack that was dominant in most areas other than the obvious one of putting points on the scoreboard. As it turned out, the scoreboard was invisible, out of the range of the floodlights, by the time Ben Gollings scooted into the left-hand corner for the decisive try, but everyone in the ground knew the result.
Leeds had got away with some untidy line-out work more than once before but this time it cost them the match. Chris Murphy, the replacement lock, batted down Mark Regan's throw to no one in particular, and Ace Tiatia darted round the line to set up a ruck near the Leeds 22. Scott Bemand and Paul Burke fed Will Greenwood, occupying his England position of inside centre, and a long pass to the wide found Gollings sprinting clear of the Leeds cover. Burke's failure to add the conversion was immaterial.
Both these teams had exited the Parker Pen Challenge Cup last week, Harlequins to Stade Français and Leeds to Pontypridd, though the idea of Phil Davies, Leeds's coach, feeling any pressure would be laughable in the context of his footballing counterpart, Terry Venables. Even so, Davies will have food for thought over the next few days in the certain knowledge that Quins should have won this by a street.
The reindeer will be out to stud long before Quins work out how they managed to score no more than six points in the first half, and three of those with the last kick, a second penalty goal from four attempts by Burke. Leeds began in sprightly fashion, isolating Tani Fuga to win a seventh-minute penalty by Braam van Straaten, and adding to their lead through the same source after Pat Sanderson was penalised at a ruck.
Yet almost all of the eye-catching stuff came from the home side. In Alex Codling and Tony Diprose, Quins had two safe pairs of hands at the line-out: Codling jumping in the middle and Diprose athletically executing something close to a Fosbury Flop on a couple of occasions at the tail.
Only the obdurate and well-organised Leeds defence prevented Quins finishing off a variety of rolling mauls, not that Nick Duncombe did his side many favours by too often exploring the short side when the ball came his way at scrum-half. In among the trampling feet and Quins' heaving bodies there were sterling efforts by Mike Shelley and the Leeds pack, particularly since referee Lander saw nothing untoward each time a charge came to grief within centimetres of the Leeds line. When Burke chose the kick, mostly in the early stages, Leeds's full-back Danny Scarbough belied a reputation for shaky defence by handling the barrage with aplomb.
And it was entirely in keeping with the flow of events that Leeds claimed a try midway through the first half with a raid following a Quins error. A promising backs move came to grief when Nathan Williams spilled the ball on halfway and Scarbrough ran in his ninth try of the season. Burke's third and fourth penalties, after 55 and 72 minutes, confirmed Quins' dominance, which had its late, late reward through Gollings.
Harlequins: N Williams; M Moore (R Jewell, 59), W Greenwood, C Bell, B Gollings; P Burke, N Duncombe (S Bemand, 57-62, 68); J Leonard, T Fuga (K Wood, 59), L Gomez (J Dawson, 59), B Davison (J Evans, 59), A Codling, A Vos (capt; A Tiatia, 19-25), T Diprose, P Sanderson (Tiatia, 59).
Leeds: D Scarbrough; W Stanley, T Davies, B van Straaten, C Emmerson; G Ross, D Hegarty (A Dickens, 59); M Shelley (capt), M Regan, M Holt, S Campbell (C Murphy, 63), T Palmer, C Mather, I Feaunati, D Hyde (A Popham, 63).
Referee: S Lander (Merseyside).Reuse content