News that the winners of the European Shield will earn a place in next season's Heineken Cup, and possibly reduce the number of qualifying places available from the domestic league, should now be of little relevance to either Gloucester or Harlequins. Philippe Saint-AndrÃ©'s men maintained their challenge for the title itself with a convincing win over the Londoners, who look to have blown their chance of reaching the premier continental competition.
John Gallagher, Quins' director of rugby, admitted as much afterwards, although Saint-AndrÃ© was more cautious about his side's hopes. "It was very important to win because our target is the Heineken Cup," the Frenchman said. "Now if we win two games more we will be 99 per cent certain of being in the Heineken Cup. If we can be champions, it will be incredible. The target is the top five, but we will try to do better."
Quins have a made habit of losing key games narrowly this season and were only a point adrift at the break. But after that they fell away and had no answer to the midfield power of Chris Yates. The former demolition site worker sledgehammered his way through on the quarter hour and when Jamie Williams deliberately knocked on, Simon Mannix kicked a simple penalty. Quins responded within five minutes. After Gareth Llewellyn was held up over the line they switched play right and then left, Gareth Rees' long, missed pass finally giving David Officer room to slice through the cover.
However, Yates' half-break put Gloucester on their way to reclaiming the lead after 22 minutes. The supporting Terry Fanolua put Joe Ewens in space but when the move seemed to have stalled, up popped Trevor Woodman to charge over from 15 yards, Mannix converting for 10-5.
Williams took a quick tap penalty and freed Nick Greenstock, who made space for Adam Leach to score a try, converted by Rees. But that was as good as it got for Quins. Mannix retook the lead with a penalty for offside on half-time, then Gloucester pulled clear with 17 points in nine minutes after the break.
Ben Johnson intercepted Ben Gollings' pass to go over at the post, giving Mannix a simple conversion, which the stand-off followed up with his third penalty before handing Yates a deserved try. Mannix worked a dummy scissors with Fanolua off a ruck and slipped the ball to Yates, arriving at full steam. No one came close to stopping him and Mannix was left with a simple conversion.
Worse was to follow for Quins as Gollings was sent to the sin bin on 63 minutes for hauling back Ewens as he kicked ahead. Mannix's penalty increased the lead to 33-12 and although Kevin Nepia burrowed over at the line-out, Gloucester replied in kind via Ben Johnson. Zinzan Brooke's late try was converted by Rees before he left the scene, but his side's European Cup qualification hopes had already long departed.
Harlequins: J Williams (B Gollings, 40); B Daniel, D Officer (C Wright, 61), J Schuster, N Greenstock; G Rees (R Liley, 77), H Harries; D Barnes, S Mitchell, K Nepia (J Leonard, 71), G Llewellyn (capt), G Morgan (S White Cooper, 71), A Leach, R Jenkins (Z Brooke, 71), C Sheasby.
Gloucester: C Catling; B Johnson, T Fanolua, C Yates, J Ewens (R Jewell, 79); S Mannix, I Sanders; T Woodman, N McCarthy, A Deacon, R Fidler, I Jones, S Ojomoh (J Paramor, 59), K Jones (A Hazell, 77), E Pearce.
Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).Reuse content