Greenwood's late try closes the door on Albion

Harlequins 37 Plymouth Albion 24
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The Independent Online

Welcome to the trophy for the disenfranchised; the cup for the hoi polloi. Last summer the 12 Premiership clubs hijacked the Powergen Cup for themselves and the Welsh regions, leaving the 1,700 or so other sides in England to aspire to no higher a feat of giant-killing than tilting at the top team in National League One. Which is what Albion made a decent fist of without seriously threatening Harlequins' perfect record of 17 wins out of 17 this season.

As a result Quins are one match away from the final of the Powergen National Trophy across the road at HQ on 8 April. It will be a curtain raiser to the élite event, between the winners of the Leicester-Wasps and Bath-Llanelli semi-finals, so whatever your view of the argument, a good day is in store.

Yesterday's all-pay crowd was roughly half Quins' admirable average of just over 9,000. They saw a gutsy performance by a team drawn from Samoa, Tonga, France and South Africa - and that was just Plymouth.

Quins' overseas contingent is rumoured to be bolstered next season by Tana Umaga - though a club insider insisted they did not even know the identity of the All Black captain's agent - and head coach Andy Friend said they were looking to sign "six to 10 players" for the anticipated return to the top flight. They are believed to be vying with London Irish and Leinster for the Wallaby scrum-half Chris Whitaker. Their current Kiwi, Andrew Mehrtens, sat this one out and the XV who played stayed within themselves and were never more than two scores ahead. Three young Englishmen in the backs - Adrian Jarvis, Mike Brown and Tom Williams - interchanged positions in a kind of multi-coloured swap shop.

In most phases Albion were unimpressive in the opening quarter, yet they led 6-5 through Nat Saumi's two penalties - a long-range effort went close, too - to a try for Quins by the loosehead prop Ceri Jones, driven over at Ferrari pace from a line-out. Jones the Try - four in two matches, no less - did the same 10 minutes into the second half, with Jarvis converting for a lead of 27-16. In between there were Quins tries for Tani Fuga and Jarvis, while Plymouth's loosehead Martin Rice got one just before the break - and took an age to get up, lest anyone mistook the scorer.

Saumi kicked penalties after 43 and 68 minutes; Jarvis got a dropped goal and a penalty. Plymouth's hooking Methuselah Graham Dawe came on and rumbled over for a try 46 years and 79 minutes in the making, and at 30-24 there was the merest suggestion of a shock. But Will Greenwood set up an added-time try for George Harder and Quins strode on unimpeded.

Harlequins: M Brown; G Harder, W Greenwood, G Duffy, T Williams; A Jarvis, S So'oialo; C Jones, T Fuga (J Hayter, 73), R Nebbett (M Lambert, 80), P Bouza (J Evans, 73), S Miall, A Vos (capt; T Guest, 46), T Diprose, L Sherriff.

Plymouth Albion: L Arscott; N Sestaret, R van Eyk, K Fisilau, N Saumi (J Fabian, 76); E Barnes, N Cane (M Albina, 62); M Rice, S Pearl (G Dawe, 55), S Zimmerman (R Hopkins, 62), N Rouse, B Luxton (C Lowrie, 76), M Schusterman, T Hayes, D Thomas (capt).

Referee: A Small (London).

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