Harlequins hold nerve to edge Castres
EURO CUP REPORT: Harlequins survived a late rally from Castres Olympique as they picked up an important 20-18 win in the opening round of the Champions Cup at Stade Pierre Fabre on Saturday.
Quins were on top in the opening stages but were punished for their lack of cutting edge – an excellent chance went begging after Alex Dombrandt’s pass went to ground, and the hosts capitalised minutes later.
Castres wing Filipo Nakosi gathered a clearing kick and dissected the Quins defence with some slick footwork before popping an inside ball to Josaia Raisuqe, who jogged over the line for the game’s opening try on 17 minutes.
Further Quins handling errors followed as they struggled to build attacking phases, but a moment of magic from Danny Care eventually unlocked the Castres defence.
The scrumhalf showed terrific awareness to flick the ball away from a stalling maul close to the line and into the hands of Louis Lynagh who slid over in the corner.
Marcus Smith’s conversion gave Quins the lead after Benjamin Urdapilleta had failed to add the extras to Castres’ score.
But the Top 14 side would head into half-time with a four-point lead as Urdapilleta went on to slot two penalties in quick succession and Smith later missed the opportunity to reduce the deficit as his last-gasp kick drifted wide.
However, the England flyhalf found his range with a three-pointer early in the second half and Quins wrestled control of the contest as Hugh Tizard teed up Dombrandt to cruise under the posts amid some disorganised Castres defence.
Smith’s conversion put Quins 17-11 up, and the second half minutes ticked by as both sides made handling errors in greasy conditions.
Another Smith penalty on 73 minutes looked to have sealed it for Quins, but Castres managed to gain possession from the restart and after a couple of phases, Martin Laveau sneaked over the whitewash and Urdapilleta converted to set up a nervy finish.
Despite further pressure over the remainder of the game Quins held on as they began their Pool B campaign with a win.
Castres visit Munster in Round Two on Saturday while Quins host Cardiff.
Tries: Raisuqe, Laveau
Pens: Urdapilleta 2
Tries: Lynagh, Dombrandt
Cons: Smith 2
Pens: Smith 2
Castres: 15 Thomas Larregain, 14 Martin Laveau, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Filipo Nakosi, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Rory Kockott (captain), 8 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 7 Josaia Raisuqe, 6 Nick Champion de Crespigny, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Théo Hannoyer, 3 Antoine Guillamon, 2 Paula Ngauamo, 1 Antoine Tichit.
Replacements: 16 Brice Humbert, 17 Julius Nostadt, 18 Matthew Tierney, 19 Thomas Staniforth, 20 Tyler Ardron, 21 Simon Meka, 22 Santiago Arata, 23 Louis Le Brun.
Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Louis Lynagh, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Tom Lawday, 6 James Chisholm, 5 Stephan Lewies (captain), 4 Dino Lamb, 3 Will Collier, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jack Musk, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Hugh Tizard, 20 Jack Kenningham, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Oscar Beard.
Referee: Nika Amashukeli (Georgia)
Assistant referees: Shota Tevzadze (Georgia), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)