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Late Marcus Smith try sees 14-man Harlequins beat London Irish

By PA

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Marcus Smith’s superb individual try snatched a 25-21 victory for 14-man Harlequins at London Irish as they took another step towards qualifying for the Gallagher Premiership playoffs. Third-placed Quins are now twelve points ahead of the Exiles in the table but they were forced to do things the hard way at the Brentford Community Stadium after having Andre Esterhuizen sent off early in the second half.

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Harlequins trailed to Ollie Hassell-Collins’ try for Irish going into the final minute but Smith, who signed a long term contract extension in February, conjured up a moment of magic to cap a day where Mike Brown had made club history. It was a landmark afternoon for Harlequins stalwarts Brown and Danny Care, the latter making his 300th appearance for the club.

Brown, who is joining Newcastle next season, meanwhile became the first Quins player ever to reach the milestone of 350 games for the men from the Stoop. London Irish bagged the game’s first points through a Paddy Jackson penalty, with Brown almost hitting back straight away, knocking on in the process of trying to squeeze over.

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Jackson then knocked over his second penalty from in front of the posts to put the Exiles 6-0 ahead, with their defence standing strong under pressure. But their resistance was broken just before the half-hour, as Brown this time made no mistake from close range after being set up by Care, with Smith’s conversion putting the visitors in front.

The Quins fly-half then extended their advantage with a straightforward penalty but Jackson quickly brought the gap back down to one point with a kick of his own. A flowing move from right to left then brought Harlequins their second try right on half-time, with the ball going through the hands of Care, Esterhuizen, Smith and Brown before Cadan Murley dived in at the corner.

However, at 15-9 ahead, the visitors lost Esterhuizen to a red card after 49 minutes as the South African centre was dismissed for shoving his forearm in Curtis Rona’s face. It took just two minutes for the Exiles to make the most of their one-man advantage as Ben Loader sped in down the right following some good hands by James Stokes and Rona.

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Jackson converted superbly to nudge the hosts ahead but their lead did not last long as Smith knocked over his second penalty. It did not take long for the next twist to come, however, as an Irish breakaway led to Blair Cowan getting the ball away to Tom Parton, whose pass sent Hassell-Collins diving in at the corner. That looked to be deciding the contest but Smith had other ideas when he received the ball from Care before brilliantly stepping inside to score near the posts in the final play.

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Late Marcus Smith try sees 14-man Harlequins beat London Irish

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