'It's just quite the most unbelievable club game of rugby I've seen for some time, if ever'
Ex-Wasps title-winning skipper Lawrence Dallaglio has hailed Saturday’s extraordinary Gallagher Premiership comeback by Harlequins, the Londoners incredibly coming back from 28-0 down at Bristol to take the match to extra-time before going on to win 43-36.
Harlequins looked finished approaching half-time but an opportunist Alex Dombrandt try gave them a lifeline and they managed to draw 31-all before completing their amazing revival in extra-time to record just the sixth-ever away semi-final win in the history of the Premiership and the first since Saracens’ win at Northampton in 2015.
Billy Millard’s team came into the contest having won just one of their last six away matches in the Premiership this season but they had nothing to lose after falling heavily into arrears against a Bristol team that initially demonstrated why they had led the league from round six all the way through to last weekend’s final round 22.
The Bears, though, remarkably lost their momentum in the second half and by the time a Premiership match that began at 1.30pm was finally finished at 4.12pm when Wayne Barnes blew for full-time after extra-time, Harlequins were through to their first final since 2012, the year they won their one and only title.
The drama mesmerised BT Sport pundit Dallaglio, the 2003 World Cup winner with England who would have been involved in some club classics in his time as a player such as the memorable 2004 Heineken Cup semi-final win by Wasps against Munster in Dublin.
? Harlequins are off to Twickenham for the #GallagherPremFinal!
From 0-28 down, Quins pull off the most magnificent comeback to win 36-43 at Ashton Gate ?
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) June 19, 2021
“It’s just quite the most unbelievable club game of rugby I have seen for some time, if ever quite frankly,” enthused Dallaglio. “It was the classic game of two halves. In sport it is about emotion, it’s about love, it’s about hate, it’s about every emotion in between. At half-time we had two emotions, we had agony and ecstasy. We had one team that was just so far out in front that you worried for Harlequins that they might be humiliated… I can’t say enough about Harlequins. When you’re dead and buried at half-time and you come back from behind like that, it’s extraordinary.”
General manager Millard, the Australian who has been running the show at Harlequins since the January departure of Paul Gustard as head of rugby, admitted he couldn’t watch the final minutes when his team were hanging on just two points ahead, 38-36, before Joe Marchant’s clock-in-the-red try settled a ferocious contest.
“I was in the changing rooms for the last two-and-a-half minutes,” he said. “It was just unbelievable how we got back in the game and the belief at half-time, and then extra-time was just hanging on for dear life and we did enough.
“We just knew that if we could get some momentum on the scoreboard that they [Bristol] might check themselves. It was pretty calm. We spoke about the breakdown. We just spoke about the belief and competing for 40 minutes and seeing where we end up. The big thing we said was no regrets, we are going down and doing our thing. As long as we do that we will be happy and it was enough to get us a win in an amazing game.”
Shellshocked Bristol skipper Steven Luatua added: “Pretty disappointed with the end result. It’s going to hurt… we’ll learn from this and come back stronger next year. No one told the Harlequins that the game was in the bag. They played an outstanding game. They came out the second half and had all the momentum.”
"Pat and I have a pretty cool relationship as well"
The Harlequins general manager has plenty connections with the Bristol staff but a lesson from his old Cardiff days is foremost in his mind for the Premiership semi-final #BRIvHARhttps://t.co/8uVgm9qj41
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 19, 2021
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