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Match Reaction: Harlequins 28-26 Exeter Chiefs

Match Reaction: Harlequins 28-26 Exeter Chiefs

Harlequins inflicted Exeter Chiefs’ first loss of the Gallagher Premiership season in a Friday night thriller at The Stoop.

Paul Gustard’s men, who hadn’t beaten Exeter in their last eight meetings, showed their grit to seal a memorable victory and end Exeter’s perfect start to the campaign.

A late try from Joe Marchant sealed the win, but there were added nerves late on as Ian Whitten hit back in the closing moments to set up an incredible grandstand from which Quins came out on top.

Rob Baxter’s Exeter scored the first try of the match courtesy of Matt Kvesic, but Quins took an 8-5 advantage when captain James Chisholm crossed the whitewash.

As the first half ebbed away, Quins rallied, and they were ahead at the break thanks to Nathan Earle’s sprint down the left touchline.

Again, Chiefs broke back through their skipper Jack Yeandle, but their hold on the game disappeared when Earle crossed for his second of the night.

Ollie Devoto responded, but a penalty from Marcus Smith and a converted Marchant try were enough to seal Harlequins fourth win of the league campaign ahead of the European break.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

When Joe Marchant charged into the Exeter Chiefs try line with just minutes to play, the roar from The Stoop would have been heard across half of London, such was the tonic of joy and relief.

The run that split the line proved crucial as Ian Whittle responded not too long after to set up a stunning grandstand, but it was Marchant’s men that emerged victorious from a jaw dropping Round 9 thriller.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Exeter Chiefs decided to rest their heavy hitters after a gruelling autumn international campaign, but one capped star in the Harlequins side made all the difference in Twickenham.

In truth a whole host of players could have received the award, but England full back Mike Brown was faultless throughout the night.

The Harlequins veteran proved a thorn in Exeter’s side as Brown continued to find his fellow backs with an insatiable kicking display to set up both Earle and Marchant for tries.

Alex Dombrandt and Danny Care also shone under the lights on a perfect night for the hosts.

WHAT THEY SAID:

Harlequins head coach Paul Gustard said: “In the last few weeks we have been frustrated with our attack and I think we showed a lot more endeavour. Our depth was definitely better and our width that chops off defenders.

“I thought today we showed a true version of ourselves.

“The pleasing thing for me is that we have got the most bonus points in the competition and it takes us to eight after today.

“We are tough and we are competitive – even when we lose we get something out the game, so we are a hard team to put away.

“For me that shows resilience, character and togetherness and that’s what I am proud.

“It was the most joined up performance [of the season]. We have defended well in some games, attacked well in some games and defended set-pieces well in some games.

“Our defence again was excellent and got a lot of turnovers. Our attack was excellent, but the downside was our defence wasn’t too great. We’ll work on that this week.

Exeter Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter said: “I am obviously pleased with the two points.

“I was interviewed before the game and I was asked about our away record and I said that we have got quite an extended group who know how to win and to make it hard for the opposition.

“I think that’s the bit we got the most wrong today because it felt like multiple when we started to get back into the game that that’s where we errored.

“Early on we could have seized control of the game with a couple of five metre opportunities and we knocked one on with a pick and go and another one we played away.

“It was frustrating from our perspective because some of our elements that make us hard to beat went missing today.

“When we scored a try, the first thing we did was concede a penalty off the restart that brings pressure straight back against us.

“You also have to give credit to Harlequins because there’s no doubt that some of those errors came from pressure from the opposition.

“They took a couple of tries out of nowhere with kicks through and gathered those really well.

“If you are going to lose one, you want to take two points away from it. That’s pleasing itself and the fight we showed from the game.

“In a way the boys have got to take the loss and refocus… this is what helps Exeter Chiefs win.”

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