Quins crowned Premiership champions in thrilling final
Harlequins were crowned Premiership champions for the first ever time after a thrilling 30-23 win over Leicester Tigers at The Stoop.
Bar two short spells, Quins were fantastic throughout and tries from Tom Williams and captain Chris Robshaw, plus points from fly-half Nick Evans’s boot sparked jubilant celebrations and marked an incredible turnaround in fortunes over recent years.
Marshalled brilliantly by Robshaw and Danny Care, Quins played at the same tempo they did throughout the season that saw them top the league since game three.
In front of an 81,779 crowd they started off like a steam train and less than three minutes were on the clock when Tigers’ George Skivington was caught offside and Evans kicked his first penalty of the afternoon.
Five minutes later he hit the post with another after Georgan Murphy played the ball on the floor but Quins did not have long to wait to add more points.
From their own line-out, Quins spread the ball from left to right and, after George Robson and Nick Easter made good room down the middle, the ball went to Williams to glide home in the corner on his 100th Premiership appearance.
Evans’s conversion, like his earlier penalty, hit the post.
Leicester started to exert some pressure and ended up with a penalty of their own as Quins were caught offside, Ford kicking the points to get Tigers on the scoreboard.
Evans restored the eight-point advantage with another penalty after Tigers collapsed a scrum but they began to lose their way after that as mistakes crept in.
Ford missed one penalty but kicked another before Quins fumbled their own line-out and Steve Mafi ran in unopposed to score, Ford adding the extras to put Leicester ahead for the first time.
Quins were to go into the break in front though when Thomas Waldrom was sin-binned for cynically coming in from the side and Evans gave Quins a 14-13 lead at half time.
Quins started the second half as they started the first. Only four minutes in, Marcos Ayerza was penalised for playing the man off the ball and Evans duly kicked his fourth penalty.
Mike Brown and Ugo Monye almost got in at the corner as Quins continued to press, and when they did not, the referee pulled play back for a penalty, Evans again converting to put Quins seven points ahead.
Quins were peppering the Tigers’ line and after Evans almost scored in the corner, captain Robshaw dived over from Care’s clever pass as he hit the line at pace a metre out.
Evans converted and, with 20 minutes left, Quins held a 14-point lead.
There was no let up and, after Leicester impeded at a scrum, Evans kicked accurately again to make it 20 points his boot and give Tigers an uphill task.
But they were back in it straight away as Anthony Allen caught Quins napping with a quick penalty and darted under the posts, Ford adding the extras.
Quins were suddenly rattled and when Care lost the ball from a scrum only a last-ditch tackle from Evans stopped Ben Youngs from scoring.
Tigers did though reduce the deficit to just seven with 10 minutes left when Ford kicked another penalty as the pulsating finale continued.
Tom Guest replaced Maurie Fa’asavalu with eight minutes to go in Quins’ first chance as O’Shea looked to stem the tide of Leicester pressure.
Manusamoa Tuilagi’s side entry into a ruck relieved some pressure and Evans was replaced by Rory Clegg with four minutes to go after a nasty clash of heads.
Quins could smell the trophy and, having regained their composure, were doing an excellent job of keeping Leicester at bay until James Johnston was penalised at a scrum and Tigers had a line out just metres form the Quins line.
Again Quins were penalised and again Tigers had a line-out in the exact same place with 30 seconds to go and when Leicester were awarded a scrum, the clock had ticked into overtime.
Quins and Leicester fans roared their team on but when Tigers infringed, Quins won the penalty and began wild celebrations – once Clegg smacked the ball out of play.