Harlequins 26 Connacht 10: Hala'Ufia tries in vain to haul Quins through

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It was a courageous effort, but Harlequins slipped out of the European Challenge Cup despite racking up four tries and a bonus point in this victory.

Before their outstanding No 8, Chris Hala'Ufia, crossed the line with a few minutes left, the final quarter-final berth, for the third-best runners-up, had been snatched by Newcastle in Padova. Harlequins had to be content with second spot in Pool Four after a bitty win over gutsy Connacht.

The first half had little to commend it. Harlequins did score three of their tries, but they allowed Connacht the time, space and opportunity to come back into the match. Mistakes from both sides early on saw chances going to waste, but Harlequins certainly showed more thrust, most notably through the midfield where the scrum-half Andy Gomarsall's superlative service - he surely has one of the fastest passes in England - ensured that the likes of Wales's Hal Luscombe, in the centre, had plenty of quality ball.

Luscombe was indeed a powerhouse, probing and prodding for any chink in the Connacht defence. He crossed the line in the fourth minute, courtesy of his fellow centre Stuart Abbott's final pass following a wonderful passage of Harlequins play which swept up and back, right and left before the final combo sealed it with a try.

But Connacht pressed back and only some over-casual handling prevented them from touching down themselves. At least they managed a penalty, through the burly Ireland centre Mark McHugh.

Quins, though, hit back with their second try. This time it was the turn of their cultured full-back Mike Brown, who impressed again with his speed of foot and thought when he was put through by the fly-half Adrian Jarvis.

Another who caught the eye was Hala'Ufia, who caused the Irishmen countless problems. It was Hala'Ufia who popped up a perfect ball while on the ground for Abbott's try, the final score of the half, which was converted by Jarvis.

Quins were given a jolt midway through the second half when Connacht's replacement fly-half, Gavin Williams, burst upfield and drew what was left of the London side's cover before sending the scrum-half Conor O'Loughlin over for the visitors' first and only try of the match.

Harlequins then notched up their fifth point when Hala'Ufia burst through from close range with four minutes left. It was not enough, and Quins had paid the price for earlier defeats, notably against Bath.

Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle, H Luscombe, S Abbott, S Keogh (U Monye, 70); A Jarvis, A Gomarsall (S So'oialo, 76); A Croall, T Fuga, M Ross (R Nebbett, 54), O Kohn (J Evans, 54), N Spanghero, A Vos (W Skinner, 60), P Volley (capt), C Hala'Ufia.

Connacht: D Riordan; T Robinson (C Keane, 63), J Hearty, M McHugh (P Durcan, 46), C McPhillips; P Warwick (G Williams,18), C O'Loughlin; B Wilkinson, J Fogarty (capt; A Flavin, 52), S Knoop (B Sturgess, 52), M Swift (A Farley, 68), R Strudwick, M Lacey, R Ofisa, B O'Connor (C Rigney, 52).

Referee: D Changleng (Scotland).

Comments