Greenwood sets up Quins' advantage for return leg

Harlequins 31 Connacht 22
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The Independent Online

Any side scoring four tries in a match at this level would reasonably expect to come away with victory by more than the nine-point margin Harlequins will take to the Galway Sportsground the weekend after next.

Any side scoring four tries in a match at this level would reasonably expect to come away with victory by more than the nine-point margin Harlequins will take to the Galway Sportsground the weekend after next.

There was no doubt Quins had the firepower - all their tries were scored by backs - and they also dominated the line-out, while in the loose and around the fringes they had plenty of ball-carrying and ball-playing forwards. Their defence was pretty good as well, in as much as they only conceded one try and that was from a catch and drive line-out. But a key element of defence has to be discipline, or, put more cynically, getting an appreciation of the referee's competence and approach, as well as his pet likes and dislikes.

A penalty count of 17-12 against Quins, with the last awarded with 10 minutes left, says it took them a while to get to grips with Italian official Giulio de Santis's interpretations, especially at the breakdown.

Never mind - Quins will be favourites to make it to the final. Their wide game was a trifle more sophisticated than Connacht's and the England centre Will Greenwood was in imperious form. The centre's pace and vision opened up acres of space for the pacey back three to exploit. His kicking from hand was unerring, regularly undoing a lot of hard work by the visiting forwards.

But as often as Quins pulled away with tries, from Mel Deane, then George Harder, then Ugo Monye and finally from Greenwood, so they were hauled back. Eric Elwood may have won the last of his 35 Ireland caps during the 1999 World Cup but he can still knock them over. The 35-year-old fly-half converted Connacht's only try, scored by openside Matt Lacey on the stroke of half-time, then landed four telling penalties.

Sadly for Connacht, while they will have home advantage in the second leg, they will still have their work cut out to win. Even their coach, Michael Bradley, accepted the fact. "The odds are in their favour," the former Ireland scrum-half said. "But it is a challenge for the side." And Connacht have risen to some more daunting challenges this season, winning in Narbonne and Béziers as well as trouncing Pau in Galway.

Harlequins: Tries Deane, Harder, Monye, Greenwood Conversion Burke Penalties Burke 2 Drop Goal Burke Connacht: Tries Lacey Conversion Elwood Penalties McHugh, Elwood 4

Harlequins: G Duffy; G Harder, W Greenwood, M Deane (B Willis, 62), U Monye; P Burke, S Keogh; M Worsley (C Jones, 62), T Fuga, J Dawson, S Miall, J Evans (B Davison, 67), R Winters, T Diprose, A Vos (capt).

Connacht: M Mostyn (S Moore, 83); C McPhillips, D Yapp, M McHugh, W Munn; E Elwood, M Walls (C O'Loughlin, 70); D McFarland, B Jackman (capt), A Clarke (P Bracken, 52), D Browne (M McCarthy, 62), A Farley, M Swift, J O'Sullivan, M Lacey.

Referee: G de Santis (It)

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