Tom Guest’s late try means Harlequins will go into the final round with their Aviva Premiership play-off dreams well and truly alive after edging past Exeter Chiefs 30-29 at Sandy Park.
Harlequins headed to Exeter knowing full well that anything but a win would do as they look to keep their hopes of an Aviva Premiership semi-final alive.
But it was the Chiefs, themselves chasing seventh spot and with it European rugby, who looked like they would be celebrating as they led 23-5 shortly after half-time thanks to tries from Dave Lewis and Matt Jess, as well as the boot of Gareth Steenson.
However Quins refused to lie down and Nick Evans and Danny Care went over – adding to Ugo Monye’s first-half effort – setting the stage for Guest’s heroics with just minutes left.
The result means that Harlequins host Bath Rugby in the final round of regular season action three points behind the fourth-placed West Country outfit.
Harlequins started the game on the front foot and immediately put the home side under heavy pressure.
However it was Exeter who were on the scoreboard first as Steenson fired home a penalty from Quins’ 10m line.
And things went from bad to worse for Harlequins as Lewis got the game’s opening try, the Chiefs scrum-half sniping over off the back of a driving maul, Steenson’s conversion handing the home side a 10-0 lead after quarter of an hour.
However just moments later Quins struck back as Monye scored his first Aviva Premiership try of the season, the winger shrugging off the attentions of Steenson to go over in the right corner.
Evans couldn’t add the conversion but at the other end opposite number Steenson made no mistake as he added three more to Exeter’s total.
Monye then showed more pace and power as he threatened to break through several tackles and score, however the home side held firm and Steenson added another penalty to hand them a 16-5 half-time lead.
And just four minutes after the restart the Sandy Park faithful had plenty more to shout about as Jess grabbed their second try of the game. Ian Whitten broke well on the right flank and after selling Monye a dummy he cut inside and offloaded to Jess to go over.
Steenson added the conversion before opposite number Evans then kickstarted Quins’ comeback as the Kiwi fly-half spotted a gap to touch down, dusting himself off to add the extras. The points also saw Evans overtake Glen Jackson as the highest overseas player in Premiership history.
But there was no time for Quins to dwell on that as they pushed for another score, Evans kicking another penalty after Kyle Sinckler had threatened to race away.
Exeter Chiefs were reduced to 14 men as Damian Welch was sin binned for a professional foul, but the home side held firm and Steenson and Evans traded penalties while he was off the field.
On 67 minutes some excellent offloading play from the visitors saw Harlequins come to within one point of their hosts as scrum-half Care went over, only for Steenson to once again stretch Exeter’s lead with a penalty.
But Quins kept coming and replacement Guest benefitted from great work from Dave Ward to put the visitors in front for the first time in the match. Evans was well wide with the conversion but it didn’t matter as Quins saw the game out, ending Exeter Chiefs’ European hopes in the progress.