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Match report: Gloucester Rugby 25 Harlequins 27

29 Sep 2018
Match report: Gloucester Rugby 25 Harlequins 27

Marcus Smith’s hat-trick of penalties saw Harlequins triumph in a war of attrition at Gloucester.

The lead changed hands time and again in a topsy-turvy encounter in the south west but fly-half Smith came off the bench to thrust Paul Gustard’s troops back to winning ways after 11 straight away defeats in Gallagher Premiership Rugby.

Jake Polledri provided the spark that got the scoreboard ticking over with 13 minutes on the clock, the Italian international breaking through a raft of tackles to tee up Danny Cipriani for the first try of the game.

However, it didn’t take long for Harlequins to hit back emphatically via two quickfire scores from Nathan Earle.

First, the winger seized on a loose ball to gleefully run home before Earle was celebrating again in a flash, Joe Marchant driving the visitors downfield before feeding his teammate, who dotted down despite the efforts of Tom Hudson, James Lang adding the extras to make it 12-5.

Earle’s brace drew a ferocious reaction from Gloucester, who drove forward time and again.

A Cipriani penalty just before the half-hour mark chipped away at the deficit while the visitors’ Lang missed from the tee.

Then, after Matt Symons was yellow-carded for an offside, a Cipriani penalty drew the hosts back to within a point before Ben Vellacott’s pace helped set up Charlie Sharples to turn things around.

However, a Lang penalty on the stroke of half-time made it 18-15 and he repeated the trick early in the second period to restore parity, with a nip-and-tuck encounter shredding nerves in the stands at Kingsholm.

With just over 20 minutes to go, replacement Smith bisected the posts to edge Harlequins back in front and the 19-year-old booted another successful penalty to hand his team a five-point advantage.

That lead lasted but for a moment, though, as Sharples grabbed his second try of the game to swing the pendulum back the other way after fine work from Matt Banahan and Hudson, Cipriani converting.

Harlequins’ goose looked cooked as, five minutes from time, a Smith penalty crashed against the post but there was time for the fly-half to redeem himself as he hit the target for the third time to fire the visitors to victory.