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Harlequins leave it late to successfully raid Gloucester at Kingsholm

By PA
Andre Esterhuizen / PA

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Champions Harlequins reeled off a fifth successive Gallagher Premiership victory over Gloucester after they fought back to win 20-17 at Kingsholm.

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Quins trailed by 10 points midway through the second quarter, but they drew level by half-time before taking charge during the second period.

Centre Luke Northmore and scrum-half Danny Care scored tries – Care’s 65th-minute effort put Quins ahead for the first time – while fly-half Marcus Smith kicked two penalties and two conversions.

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Gloucester, chasing a fourth Premiership win on the bounce that would have underlined their play-off credentials, posted a first-half try through number eight Ruan Ackermann, with Adam Hastings adding a conversion and penalty.

But they could not get going in the second half, even though substitute hooker Santiago Socino’s late score that Lloyd Evans converted secured a losing bonus point.

Gloucester showed two changes from the side that beat Bath last time out, with centre Billy Twelvetrees replacing Mark Atkinson and Fraser Balmain gaining a start at tighthead prop.

Smith, who missed Quins’ victory over Northampton six days ago due to a positive coronavirus result, was back in action after returning a negative test that allowed him to resume training.

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Elsewhere, Northmore and lock Hugh Tizard also featured, with Tizard taking over from injured captain Stephan Lewies, while prop Joe Marler failed a late fitness test and was replaced by Santiago Garcia Botta.

Quins felt Marler’s absence in the early scrums as Gloucester’s forwards controlled set-piece action, gaining three penalties on the back of some outstanding work.

Such dominance gave the home side a strong territorial platform, but they could not make it count during the opening quarter through a combination of poor handling and missed opportunities, underlined by scrum-half Ben Meehan failing to capitalise on Evans’ break.

Hastings kicked Gloucester ahead after 21 minutes, before Evans and wing Louis Rees-Zammit sparked a spectacular counter-attack from deep inside their own half.

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The move passed through several pair of hands before space was created for prop Val Rapava-Ruskin, but he spilled possession under pressure while diving over Quins’ line for what would have been a stunning score.

Gloucester, though, only had to wait another minute to open their try account, and Ackermann marked his 100th appearance for the club in style by touching down following a close-range lineout, with Hastings converting.

Ackermann struck while Quins were temporarily a man down following a yellow card for flanker Tom Lawday, and it took the visitors more than 30 minutes before they made a meaningful excursion to Gloucester’s 22.

But the results were impressive, with Smith kicking a penalty and then converting Northmore’s fine solo try as Quins posted 10 points in rapid time.

It tied things up at the interval, although not before Quins collected a second yellow card when Northmore was guilty of a deliberate knock-on.

Quins dominated the third quarter, yet they were unable to make a stream of possession count, and Smith’s poor pass on attack allowed Gloucester leeway.

It remained all-square going into the final 20 minutes, then Smith missed a gilt-edged chance to put Quins ahead for the first time as an angled 30-metre penalty hit the post.

Tizard was stopped just short of the line as Quins maintained relentless pressure, but Gloucester could not hold out for much longer, with Care darting off the back of a maul to claim his team’s second try, and Smith converted.

A second Smith penalty put daylight between the teams, and there was no way back for Gloucester, despite Socino’s 78th-minute touchdown.

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