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England centre branded 'phenomenal' after bagging brace at HQ

By PA
Joe Marchant /PA

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Harlequins senior coach Tabai Matson lavished praise on “phenomenal” centre Joe Marchant after his team booked a place in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs.

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England international Marchant scored two second-half tries in a man-of-the-match performance as Quins fought back from 17 points adrift to beat Gloucester 28-24 at Twickenham.

“Joe was phenomenal again today,” Matson said. “He does an amazing job for us.

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“I thought (for England) against France (in the Six Nations), he was the best player on the field that day.

“For us, he is so reliable. He is one of our best. He is so versatile.

“He can be a world-class centre – he already is – you can put him on the wing, he can play full-back – don’t tell him I said that! – so he is a really balanced, skilful player.

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“Is he one of the top centres in the country? Yes, for sure.”

Premiership champions Quins, renowned for turning seemingly lost causes into victories, did it again, as Marchant’s double and wing Cadan Murley’s 69th-minute touchdown saw them home.

Marcus Smith kicked all four conversions, including the extras following Alex Dombrandt’s first-half try, to leave Gloucester crestfallen.

Matson added: “The final result was really gritty, but Gloucester put us under immense pressure in the first half.

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“We talked about not being ambushed – they were desperate like us – and probably the half-time score reflected the performances from both sides.

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“But this time of year, it is good to get into your rhythm finally and scrape a result after 80 minutes.

“We look like a team that has played one game in the last three weeks. This time of year, being match-fit and having those tough games actually matters. The first half, we were a split-second off and they punished us for it.

“We focused on a couple of things at half-time, and it kind of paid dividends. Our discipline was significantly better in the second half, and it is always pleasing to adjust.”

For the entire opening 40 minutes, Gloucester did their utmost to gatecrash Quins’ Big Summer Kick-Off in front of a 47,000-strong crowd.

The visitors raced into a comfortable interval lead after tries from impressive number eight Ben Morgan, lock Freddie Clarke and centre Chris Harris, while Adam Hastings converted all three scores and dropped a goal.

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A losing bonus point keeps Gloucester in play-off contention, but their fate is now in the hands of others.

Gloucester head coach George Skivington said: “A few of our lads haven’t even seen Twickenham Stadium, let alone played here. I am really proud of them.

“I don’t think the boys stopped fighting. I am not going to cry myself home.

“Everyone says it is a great season so far, but I can see so many things we want to be better at. We are a bit gutted because we could have nicked that.

“Our penalty count seemed to go through the roof in the second half. I will have to look at how the boys handle those stress situations.

“They (Quins) have a great chemistry, they turned it on and they deserved to win. We can look at some of the things they did and learn, because we are not quite there yet

“If we don’t make the top four, it doesn’t come down to this single game.”

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