Harlequins overcome Montpellier 41-18 in European Challenge Cup opener on Thursday
Quins led at the break thanks to tries from Luke Wallace and Nick Easter
Scores from Jack Clifford, Danny Care, Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Chris Robshaw secure the bonus-point triumph
BY OLIVER ROBY
Ollie Lindsay-Hague scored one of the tries of the season as Harlequins romped to a comfortable 41-18 opening-round win over Montpellier, securing a potentially crucial try-scoring bonus point in the process.
Benoît Paillaugue thrashed over three early penalties for Montpellier before Nick Evans finally mustered a response to make it 9-3. Paillaugue added another shortly after but Quins’ Luke Wallace got over for the game’s first try on 29 minutes before Nick Easter’s score, converted by Evans. gave Quins a half-time lead.
Jack Clifford put the hosts further ahead before Danny Care got in ahead of Ollie Lindsay-Hague with one of the tries of the season. Evans added two more goals before Chris Robshaw coasted over with the minutes ticking down, meaning two second-half penalties from Paillaugue had little impact on the outcome.
With two enterprising sides locking horns, plenty of points were expected but the opening quarter proved to be an attritional affair with Montepllier’s pack dominating proceedings to help lay the platform for Paillaugue to put his side nine points up after 21 minutes courtesy of three penalty goals.
Evans slotted a penalty of his own to cut the deficit to six points two minutes later, but the 26th minute brought The Cistuses’ fourth penalty of the night.
But as Jake White’s men hit double figures, Quins hit their straps and Wallace got the first five-pointer of the 2015/16 Challenge Cup with 11 minutes left of the first half, rumbling over after the hosts opted to run a penalty.
With momentum now well on their side, Easter was next to go in, a second TMO decision giving them the lead for the first time before Evans’ first conversion of the evening.
Their forward pack was well on top and that continued in the second period as Clifford pounced on the back of a maul.
As the visitors looked to keep their hosts at arms’ length, Paillaugue kicked his fifth penalty of the night, but that only served to inspire Danny Care and co. and it was Care who next got in on the act, touching down after yet another unstoppable driving maul to take John Kingston’s men from 3-12 down in the 29th minute to 27-15 up in the 57th and secure a bonus point.
Paillaugue notched his sixth three-pointer of the night to haul the ultimately tryless visitors to within nine points, but it was a try of the season contender from Lindsay-Hague which blew the game open.
Marland Yarde kicked off the sweeping move 70 metres out, gathering a kick before taking his own chip over the top. As the move looked to have broken down, he found Care in space, who showed fine balance and agility to bamboozle no fewer than three defenders to manufacture some space.
In support arrived Mike Brown who drove two more defenders out of the game before winding away from a would-be tackler before offloading to the versatile Lindsay-Hague, who strolled in from 10 metres out.
Evans converted and the Top 14 side were left shellshocked at 16 points down.
Evans and Care were withdrawn as the game wound down towards the final hooter but the hosts still found time for a late score and it was England captain Robshaw who crashed over from close range with Ben Botica kicking the final points of the match to round off a clinical night’s work for the London side.
Man of the Match
Harlequins: Danny Care
On the back of a monstrous pack effort, it was Care’s dazzling skills which stole the show. Seemingly revitalised after being handed the captaincy in the summer, he dictated the game in attack and got over for a deserved try before a well-earned rest late on. A message to England’s future coach?