Late Marcus Smith show stuns Cardiff as Harlequins complete thrilling comeback

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Late Marcus Smith show stuns Cardiff Rugby as Harlequins complete thrilling comeback - GETTY IMAGES
Late Marcus Smith show stuns Cardiff Rugby as Harlequins complete thrilling comeback - GETTY IMAGES

Cardiff Rugby 33 Harlequins 36

Harlequins once again reached into their box of tricks and pulled off another comeback, with Marcus Smith - who else - running the show with aplomb as the England fly-half landed the winning penalty with time up on the clock, after coming from 33-19 down against an excellent Cardiff side.

It was Smith's try, combining his footwork with power, which drew Harlequins level at 33-33 with four minutes left, Harlequins' fifth score after earlier finishes by Louis Lynagh, Tyrone Green, Luke Northmore and Danny Care, as the Gallagher Premiership champions booked their place in the Champions Cup knockout stages. For all Smith's skill, Harlequins' pack were also outstanding, winning multiple scrum penalties.

"It’s testament to the guys and what we’re trying to build. We stuck in there and we’re very resilient at times," Smith said afterwards. "To be rewarded with a penalty in front of the sticks by the forwards, who I thought in parts were outstanding, is a massive relief."

Cardiff more than played their part in a superb contest which deserved to be played in front of fans and not empty stands, with Owen Lane's sharp finishing leading to two tries and the performance of Tomos Williams both highlights for the watching Wales head coach Wayne Pivac in the stands. A draw would have been the fair outcome, only for Santiago Garcia Botta's turnover on Josh Adams to produce the crucial final penalty.

"You would like to think you could close those games out, but if you watch Harlequins that's a regular day at the office for them, they are never beaten until the final whistle," said Cardiff head coach Dai Young. "I never felt comfortable. I'm proud of the effort and the way we played."

Harlequins opted to rest star centre Andre Esterhuizen but were still off to a fast start, Louis Lynagh finishing well stepping inside from Smith's cross-field kick.

But tries from Lane, fending off Esterhuizen's replacement Northmore before sprinting free, and a Rey Lee-Lo break finishing off from close range by James Ratti put Cardiff ahead.

Harlequins' power in the scrum - props Joe Marler and Will Collier earned their pay packets putting both Cardiff props through the wringer with Dmitri Arhip sin-binned - set the table for Green to go over on the verge of half-time, as Cardiff held onto a 14-12 lead.

Harlequins had a try ruled out to start the half but were soon over, a delightful move with Smith's pass inside to Alex Dombrandt opening Cardiff up with the No 8 putting Northmore over for Harlequins' third, the two former Cardiff Met students combining on their return to the Welsh capital.

Now it was Cardiff's turn to pile on the pressure close to Harlequins' line, with captain Dombrandt yellow carded after successive offences, barging over after a tapped penalty through Wales prop Dillon Lewis.

Lane then scored an excellent second, securing the bonus point after Harlequins failed to clean up a Hallam Amos' grubber kick with Lane doing well to ground the ball near the corner flag. But Cardiff weren't done, exploiting more space out wide thanks to Lee-Lo's excellent offload, Corey Domachowski scoring their fifth for a 33-19 lead.

Late Marcus Smith show stuns Cardiff Blues as Harlequins complete thrilling comeback - GETTY IMAGES
Late Marcus Smith show stuns Cardiff Blues as Harlequins complete thrilling comeback - GETTY IMAGES

Harlequins still had time for another of their comebacks, Care darting over after Harlequins appeared to be setting up a maul.

They soon piled on more pressure, with Cardiff hooker Kirby Myhill sin-binned. Smith's dancing footwork after minutes of scrums made the difference, scoring and converting to level things up at 33-33 with four minutes left.

There was still time for a twist, and after Cardiff dithered in their own half, Harlequins pounced for the winning penalty at the breakdown, knocked over by Smith to secure another heart-stopping win.

Match details

Scoring sequence: 0-5 Lynagh, 0-7 Smith con, 5-7 Lane try, 7-7 Evans con, 12-7 Ratti try, 14-7 Evans con, 14-12 Green try, 14-17 Northmore try, 14-19 Smith con, 19-19 Lewis try, 21-19 Evans con, 26-19 Lane try, 31-19 Domachowski try, 33-19 Evans con, 33-24 Care try, 33-26 Smith con, 33-31 Smith try, 33-33 Smith con, 33-36 Smith pen

Cardiff: H Amos; O Lane (T Myhill 72), R Lee-Lo, W Halaholo (B Thomas 50), J Adams; J Evans (R Priestland 76), T Williams (L Williams 78); R Carré (C Domachowski 50), K Myhill, D Arhip (D Lewis 48), J Turnbull (c), S Davies, S Lewis-Hughes, E Jenkins (W Boyde 70), J Ratti

Not used: R Thornton

Yellow card: D Arhip 40, K Myhill 73

Harlequins: T Green; L Lynagh, J Marchant, L Northmore (H Jones 51), C Murley; M Smith, D Care; J Marler (S Garcia Botta 77), J Walker (S Riley 77), W Collier (S Kerrod 55), M Symons, D Lamb, V Taulani (A White 51), T Lawday (H Tizard 55), A Dombrandt (c)

Not used: J Stafford, W Edwards

Yellow card: A Dombrandt 53

Referee: T Trainini (FRA)

Attendance: 0

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