Premiership: London Irish 21-25 Harlequins - Marcus Smith's late try seals Quins win

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Marcus Smith
Marcus Smith's sixth try of the season secured Harlequins' victory
Gallagher Premiership
London Irish: (9) 21
Tries: Loader, Hassell-Collins Con: Jackson Pens: Jackson 3
Harlequins: (15) 25
Tries: Brown, Murley, Smith Cons: Smith 2 Pens: Smith 2

Marcus Smith's last-minute try saw 14-man Harlequins beat London Irish 25-21 in an ill-tempered match.

Mike Brown and Cadan Murley tries for Quins were the highlights of a first half punctuated by indiscipline.

Andre Esterhuizen was sent off after a brawl after a clash with Curtis Rona early in the second half and Ben Loader scored for Irish two minutes later.

Ollie Hassell-Collins' try extended the hosts' lead with 20 minutes to go before Smith darted in late on.

The win sees Quins move up to third place in the Premiership while the losing bonus point sees Irish consolidate sixth place.

Harlequins' former England full-back Mike Brown scored a try on his 350th appearance for the club as he went over from a metre after half an hour with his side's first decent spell close to the Irish line.

His team-mate Will Evans was then helped off with a painful-looking injury to his right leg a couple of minutes later.

Murley scored in the final minute of the half after Irish were penalised from a scrum deep in their own territory, with the visitors working the resulting five-metre line-out from one side of the field to the other for the winger to get his third try of the season.

The visitors went down to 14 men eight minutes after the break when replays showed Esterhuizen had struck Rona in the face with his elbow.

It came in the aftermath of a brawl that had started when Irish forward Matt Rogerson had taken exception to Blair Cowan being held down by Matt Symons.

Loader took advantage of the extra man soon after as he flew in down the right wing following three passes and Hassell-Collins went over in the left corner as Irish advanced 60 metres in quick time after Smith had broken for Quins.

It looked as though Irish were set for an comeback victory, only for the impressive Smith to have the final say as the fly-half superbly kicked a penalty to the corner and skipped past five Irish defenders to score the winner from the resulting line-out.

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney:

"We did okay for the first 20 [minutes] of the second half, but we'll be looking at the first half as much as the last 10 minutes.

"That's because we probably didn't play as well as we can do, we probably needed to go after the game a little bit more.

"There's plenty of learnings for us, there always is, but credit to Harlequins, they stuck in there and took their chances at the end.

"We got one try on a transition, when they had that intercept and we played on and we transitioned well, but there were a couple of things we probably could have made a bit easier for ourselves.

"We did okay, I think there were just one or two other opportunities that we probably didn't quite exploit and Harlequins did what they're good at, at the end."

Harlequins attack and backs coach Nick Evans:

"I'm probably most proud of the kick because with Marcus, if you put six [men] in front of him, with that amount of space, he's pretty good at beating people most of the time.

"But in that type of mental pressure of getting a set-piece penalty around halfway and you have to put it in the corner to give us a chance - and the wind was pretty swirly out there.

"For him to really back himself and go for it in a big moment like that is great learnings from him and great maturity, so I'm pretty proud of him for that.

"It was a weird old game - it was pretty loose at times, pretty inaccurate, but it was nice to come away with the result."

London Irish: Parton; Loader, Rona, Stokes, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps; Gigena, Creevy, Hoskins, Nott, Simmons, Rogerson (capt), Cowan, Tuisue.

Replacements: Cornish, Elrington, Chawatama, Munga, Donnell, Englefield, Atkins, Homer.

Harlequins: Brown; Green, Marchant, Esterhuizen, Murley; Smith, Care; Marler, Baldwin, Louw, Symons, Lamb, Lawday, Evans, Dombrandt (capt).

Replacements: Gray, Els, Collier, Lewies, Kenningham, Landajo, Edwards, Northmore.

Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU).

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