A last-gasp penalty from Marcus Smith saw Harlequins snatch victory from the jaws of defeat at Cardiff. Joe Marler tuned the Cardiff scrum, while Harlequins’ pack put the Welsh club under severe pressure, but Tabai Matson’s side made the fatal mistake of getting drawn into a fast free-flowing game by Dai Young’s team. But Smith saved the day with an exceptional individual performance, to strengthen his claim to the England number 10 jersey.
By then it had felt an age since the game’s early exchanges which began, after some innovative play, with a well-executed cross-kick by Smith which was gathered by Louis Lynagh. The back cut inside Hallam Amos before showing his strength to power his way over the line for their opening try.
Smith converted from the touchline, but the Wales No 9 Tomos Williams upped the tempo for the hosts with a quickly taken penalty which forced Harlequins onto the back foot. After a few phases, the ball was spread wide to Owen Lane who brushed off some weak tackling to score in the far right-hand corner. Jarrod Evans added the extras and Cardiff were soon celebrating their second try.
The Samoan centre Rey Lee-Lo sliced Quins open with a 70-metre break before offloading to Josh Adams. The Wales international was hauled down by Tyrone Green, but after a period of sustained pressure James Ratti squeezed over from short range.
Both sides were determined to play the game at pace, but Harlequins’ real strength was their scrum and driving game. Harlequins lay siege to the Cardiff try line during the closing stages of the first half.
Cardiff buckled in the scrum which resulted in the prop Dmitri Arhip getting sent to the sin bin, and Harlequins made the most of their numerical advantage with another cross-kick from Smith resulting in Green touching down. Smith failed to convert meaning Cardiff held a slender 14-12 lead at the interval.
Harlequins had a try disallowed in the first minute of the second half after a lovely chip through by Smith was gathered by Joe Marchant who offloaded to Danny Care to touch down. But upon looking at the television replays Marchant was in front of the ball resulting in the try being disallowed. Some sparkling work from Smith with a deceptive inside pass to Alex Dombrandt sent Luke Northmore over for a try.
Smith added the extras, but Cardiff refused to throw in the towel, and were able to build some pressure in the Harlequins 22 which resulted in Dombrandt being shown a yellow card for cynically killing the ball at the breakdown.
After huffing and puffing on the visiting try line the Wales international Dillon Lewis barged over for Cardiff’s third try, with Evans converting to nudge Cardiff ahead. This game turned completely on its head with a well-weighted kick from Amos gathered by Lane who acrobatically finished in the far left-hand corner. The referee and the TMO took a while to deliberate, but the try was eventually awarded. Harlequins were getting ripped to shreds as a neat offload from Lee-Lo went through the hands of Seb Davies and Shane Lewis-Hughes, before Lane charged up the touchline. The ball was recycled by Cardiff with an inside pass from Willis Halaholo allowing Corey Domachowski to score.
But this game was far from over as Care sneaked over to bring Harlequins back within seven points. Harlequins threw everything at Cardiff in the final stages of this game as Kirby Myhill was sent to the sin bin for a scrum offence allowing Smith to score a superb try before his penalty dramatically snatched the win.