Snyman sharpness leaves Harlequins staring at trapdoor

Leeds 21 - Harlequins 10
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The Independent Online

It is not done yet, but Leeds have something better than a fighting chance of securing Premiership survival after late tries from Phil Christophers and Andre Snyman earned them the most precious of victories at Headingley last night. Harlequins, on the other hand, are up to their eyeballs in the quicksand and sinking fast. If they fail to beat Sale in London on Saturday, their chances of avoiding relegation will be close to non-existent.

It is not done yet, but Leeds have something better than a fighting chance of securing Premiership survival after late tries from Phil Christophers and Andre Snyman earned them the most precious of victories at Headingley last night. Harlequins, on the other hand, are up to their eyeballs in the quicksand and sinking fast. If they fail to beat Sale in London on Saturday, their chances of avoiding relegation will be close to non-existent.

Christophers completed a long-range attack on 70 minutes after the Leeds backs had run the ball from their own 22. Chris Bell contributed, as did Diego Albanese, but the crucial hand was played by young Tom Biggs, who suckered in the Quins defence before freeing his colleague. In barely the blink of an eye, Snyman then nailed the win with his second score of the night, completed from close range after Alan Dickens scampered away from a scrum.

Ten points was probably 10 points more than the first half, fraught and frantic but far from fantastic, deserved. Quins settled the quicker, and no sooner had they addressed some problems at the scrum by introducing Mike Worsley off the bench, they took the lead with a Jeremy Staunton penalty.

But it was difficult to believe that the Yorkshiremen, loaded with live ammunition since beating Leicester in a fractious Premiership game last month, would fire blanks for the duration of so crucial a fixture, and sure enough, their forwards took charge from the half hour onwards. Their ascendancy allowed Gordon Ross to turn the Quins defence with a variety of tactical kicks, and gave the slippery Christophers the space to swivel his hips in midfield.

The pressure told a minute before the interval when Ugo Monye allowed Snyman too much room on the right. The big Springbok ran hard on a beautifully judged inside line, swatted Tony Diprose aside and made the line in Gavin Duffy's tackle for a try converted by Ross.

It was too much like one-way traffic for the Londoners' liking, and they whistled up Simon Keogh, Simon Miall and Ace Tiatia. The first two had not been on the field long when Staunton intercepted a high-risk pass from Ross and galloped 50 metres for his first try of the campaign. The Irishman converted to restore his side's three-point lead.

Yet just as the mutterings of doom began to circulate around the 8,000 crowd, Christophers claimed his try and Ross added the extras. A few minutes minutes later, Snyman's score sent Quins back down the M1 contemplating the very worst rugby life has to offer.

Leeds: Tries Snyman 2, Christophers; Conversions Ross 3. Harlequins: Try Staunton; Conversion Staunton; Penalty Staunton.

Leeds: D Albanese; A Snyman, P Christophers, C Bell, D Rees (T Biggs, 61); G Ross, A Dickens; M Shelley, M Regan (R Rawlinson, 82), G Kerr, S Hooper (capt), S Morgan, J Dunbar (C Rigney, 61), R Parks, A Popham.

Harlequins: G Duffy (T Williams, 73); G Harder, W Greenwood, M Deane, U Monye (S Keogh, h-t); J Staunton (A Thomas, 77), S So'oialo; C Jones (M Worsley, 24; Jones 66), J Hayter (A Tiatia, 45), J Dawson, R Winters, S Maling (S Miall, h-t), N Easter, A Vos (capt), A Diprose.

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).

* There was mixed injury news for the Lions yesterday. Leicester's prop Graham Rowntree should be recovered from a knee problem within two to three weeks, but Matt Stevens, Bath's prop, is being forced to wait until his knee ligament problem settles down before seeing a specialist.

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