Harlequins 39-39 Gloucester: Quins and Gloucester share the spoils in ten try thriller at Twickenham Stadium
Harlequins and Gloucester draw 39-39 in highest scoring draw in Aviva Premiership history
Both sides left Twickenham Stadium with three points
The lead exchanged hands on several occasions before Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans missed a last-minute drop-goal to win the game for the hosts
Quins’ Ross Chisholm and Gloucester’s Harry Trinder both bagged braces, while Rob Cook grabbed the pick of the tries
From minute number one fans were treated to constant excitement as Harlequins and Gloucester shared the spoils 39-39 in an incredible eighth “Big Game” in front of over 70,000 at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday.
The Cherry and Whites, who had lost on their last five visits to Twickenham Stadium since beating Northampton there in the final of the Powergen Cup in April 2003, took a narrow 17-15 lead at the break.
The opening 40, which was scrappy at times, saw both sides play open, expansive rugby with four tries scored, split evenly with two a piece with Gloucester’s Greig Laidlaw’s boot making the narrow difference.
And this see-saw affair continued after the break as two Henry Trinder interception tries and scores for Nick Easter and Ross Chisholm in reply saw the sides locked at 29-29 after an hour.
Laidlaw then nudged the Cherry and Whites back in front with a penalty before Cook scored a superb solo try to put Gloucester in control heading into the final ten minutes.
But an Evans penalty and conversion from a second Chisholm score saw the teams locked at 39-39 apiece heading into the closing stages.
The Kiwi fly-half then sent a drop goal inches wide attempt with seconds left as the two sides couldn’t be separated in what was an epic game.
Quins walked out to pyrotechnics and an impressive light show at Twickenham Stadium but found themselves behind after six minutes as New Zealander Thrush touched down the opening try of the game for Gloucester.
Winger Charlie Sharples managed to beat England’s Mike Brown to the high ball before hacking it back to the lock, who rammed through Jack Clifford to score.
Laidlaw then sent over the conversion to give the Cherry and Whites a seven-point lead.
Fly-half Evans though reduced the deficit as he made no mistake from the tee to open Harlequins account at Twickenham after 14 minutes, 3-7.
Quins then moved in front as they scored their first try of the evening with 15 minutes gone through Yarde.
Debutant Jamie Roberts was used on the crash ball in midfield, and that created space for the winger on the right wing and the 23-year-old, in acres of space, dived over for his first Premiership try of the season.
Evans though was unsuccessful with the attempted conversion as Quins move into a narrow one-point lead.
Laidlaw then edged Gloucester back in front from the tee in what was a fantastic, open game in the opening exchanges.
And the Cherry and Whites edged even further in front as Hook crossed for the visitors second try after 30 minutes.
Matt Kvesic did superbly to win the ball at the breakdown and found Billy Twelvetree, who feeds to the versatile back to burst down the wing from inside his own half to go over in the corner.
The ever-reliable Grieg Laidlaw sends over the conversion, 8-17.
But Quins bounced back immediately with a try of their own with Care crashing over for the score.
The hosts had gone through 12 phases of play before the scrum-half sniped over from 5m out and Evans sent over the conversion, moving him to 100 points for the season, to reduce the deficit to two points, 15-17.
Laidlaw then had a chance with the last kick of the half from the tee to extend Gloucester’ lead to five, but his effort sailed wide.
But it would be the Cherry and Whites to open the second half’s scoring as Henry Trinder ran the length of the field to touch down the visitors third try of the game seven minutes after the restart.
Against the run of play the centre picked u pa loose ball, leaving everyone behind him to speed over from well inside his own half, touching down between the posts to give Laidlaw a simple conversion, 15-24.
But the excitement and tries continued as Harlequins got their third try via Nick Easter to get right back into the game after 53 minutes.
Care got Quins initially back on the front foot, and after several phases the 37-year-old bundled over from close range, and Evans added the extras, 22-24
And a minute later Quins had the lead through Ross Chisholm.
Roberts crashed through midfield, bursting through several tackles before releasing Mike Brown, who himself pulls off a superb one-handed offload to the replacement, who dived over for the score with Evans converting, 29-24.
But Gloucester replied to secure their bonus point as Trinder raced over for his second.
The centre intercepted a Care pass a with a clear run to the line, but he pulled his hamstring with just a few metres to go but still managed to hobble over.
Laidlaw was unable to add the extras but slotted a penalty soon after to edge the visitors in front, 29-32.
Gloucester then got their fifth try of the game as Cook touched down a fine individual try after 68 minutes.
The fullback collected the ball from just inside half-way following a poor clearance from Brown and sliced through the Quins defence like a hot knife through butter to dive over with Laidlaw converting, 29-39.
Two minutes later though Gloucester conceded a penalty and Evans slotted the resulting kick to reduce the deficit to seven points.
Momentum then swung more in Quins favour as Richard Hibbard was sent to the sin-bin for pulling down the maul illegally with five minutes to go, setting up a grandstand finish.
And Harlequins made use of their man advantage one minute later as Chisholm got in for his second.
Quins re-set the maul and went again before recycling the ball to the replacement to bag his brace in the corner.
Evans then sent over the touchline conversion to level things up, 39-39.
With second left fly-half Evans moved into the pocket before attempting a dop-goal that drifted wide of the right post.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Nick Easter, 7 Jack Clifford, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 James Horwill, 3 Will Collier, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ross Chisholm
Gloucester: 15 Rob Cook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Tom Savage, 20 Jacob Rowan, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Henry Trinder
Date: Sunday, December 27
Kick-off: 16:30 GMT
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Gregory Garner, Wayne Falla
TMO: Graham Hughes