Semi Kunatani helps boost Harlequins’ play-off hopes in scrap with Leicester

first_imgShare on Twitter Rugby union Share on Messenger Topics … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading and supporting The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. And unlike many new organisations, we have chosen an approach that allows us to keep our journalism accessible to all, regardless of where they live or what they can afford. But we need your ongoing support to keep working as we do.The Guardian will engage with the most critical issues of our time – from the escalating climate catastrophe to widespread inequality to the influence of big tech on our lives. At a time when factual information is a necessity, we believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to accurate reporting with integrity at its heart.Our editorial independence means we set our own agenda and voice our own opinions. Guardian journalism is free from commercial and political bias and not influenced by billionaire owners or shareholders. This means we can give a voice to those less heard, explore where others turn away, and rigorously challenge those in power.We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism, to maintain our openness and to protect our precious independence. Every reader contribution, big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. Harlequins: Brown; Ibitoye, Marchant, Tapuai, Walker; Smith (Lang, 70), Care (Hidalgo-Clyne, 73); Marler, Elia (Buchanan, 34), Sinckler (Collier, 73), Symons, Horwill (co-capt), Dombrandt (Kunatani, 61), Robshaw (co-capt), Clifford.Tries: Care, Kunatani. Cons: Smith, Lang. Pens: Smith 3.Sin-bin: Clifford 37. Leicester: Veainu ; Aspland-Robinson (Olowofela, 70; Worth, 74), Smith, Toomua, May; Ford (capt), Harrison (White, 61); Genge (Gigena, 66), Polota-Nau (Kerr, 61), Cole (Heyes, 71), Spencer, Kitchener, Williams (Fitzgerald, 24), Thompson (O’Connor, 20), Kalamafoni.Try: Fitzgerald. Con: Ford. Pens: Ford 4.Referee: W Barnes (RFU). Att 14,301. Sign up to the Breakdown for the latest rugby union news Read more Support The Guardian Tatufu Polota-Nau’s ill-fated attempt to slow up Quins’ ball on the floor swiftly yielded another three points via a booming 40-metre Smith penalty and a rousing counter-attack from Sinckler and the forceful Alex Dombrandt gave the hosts further momentum. Tigers, however, were reprieved by a missed Smith penalty and another narrow escape when Care could not ground the ball over the visiting line, ensured a breathless finale for all concerned. Relegation is not everyone’s cup of tea but it certainly concentrates minds. Exeter’s Luke Cowan-Dickie: ‘We play our best in the biggest games’ Faf De Clerk’s late miss leaves honours evenIan Madigan and Faf De Klerk both missed penalties in the dying minutes as Bristol and Sale fought out a gripping 20-20 draw at Ashton Gate. Bristol substitute Madigan failed to find the target with two long-range efforts, while Sale scrum-half De Klerk hit the post with just seconds remaining.Sale’s Premiership play-off hopes will be over if Northampton claim a bonus-point victory over Worcester on Saturday, although Champions Cup qualification remains a strong possibility.Tries by wing Denny Solomona and De Klerk edged Sale ahead in front of a 20,000 crowd, while De Klerk added a penalty and his half-back partner AJ MacGinty kicked two conversions and a penalty.The result effectively ended Bristol’s hopes of a top-six finish, even though they went close, matching Sale on tries through touchdowns by full-back Charles Piutau and Alapati Leiua, while fly-half Callum Sheedy kicked seven points. PA Thank you for your feedback. Show Share on LinkedIn Reuse this content Share via Email The good news for Leicester is that Mike Fitzgerald’s injury-time score, which earned a losing bonus point, has made the equation fiendishly tough for Newcastle and may yet rank among the most crucial touchdowns of the season. Tigers will now be safe unless Newcastle can perform a Cherry and White miracle but, if not, a nail-biting final weekend fixture at home to Bath awaits. “I want to focus on our game against Bath, I don’t want to wish ill on Newcastle,” said Geordan Murphy, the Tigers’ head coach, revealing he would be going Saturday afternoon shopping with his wife rather than monitoring events in Gloucester on television. “I’d be quite happy to sit down and watch the rugby but my wife has told me she can’t take it, so I’ll probably follow it on my phone sneakily.”His side once again battled hard without creating quite enough chances to reward their industry or George Ford’s intelligent promptings before Fitzgerald’s close-range strike. Injuries have been a constant handicap but a bottom-three finish will be a fair reflection of their troubled season. In the good old days Leicester used to relish coming to Twickenham in May but this overcast, damp evening had a very different feel to it.Quins made the faster start, their aspirations at the opposite end of the table an obvious motivation. Their head of rugby, Paul Gustard, is in no mood to settle for mid-table mediocrity – “To miss out on the top four now would be really disappointing” – and the Stoop was suitably expectant. Only a timely interception from Telusa Veainu saved Leicester from conceding in the opening moments and a close-range dart from Danny Care duly produced the evening’s first try inside eight minutes.Two well-struck Ford penalties kept the Tigers in the hunt but Quins looked keen to leave an impression on their final home appearance of the season. It scarcely required the presence of the national head coach, Eddie Jones, in the stands to make this a big night for Mike Brown, Marcus Smith, Robshaw and Care, to name but four. Read more Harlequins Share on Facebook Quick guide Bristol 20-20 Sale: match report Since you’re here… Was this helpful? Hide Premiership Share on Pinterest The Breakdown: sign up and get our weekly rugby union email. So Newcastle live to fight another day, or conceivably another fortnight if they can somehow beat Gloucester with a bonus point at Kingsholm on Saturday. There were moments, not least when Leicester led 12-10 at half-time, when it appeared the Falcons were about to be condemned to Premiership relegation in their absence but a hard-fought Harlequins victory has delayed the moment of truth for now.It also remains to be seen whether Harlequins will reach the play-offs but this outcome has propelled them into the top four with one round to go. While victory at Wasps will still be required to make it happen, they showed plenty of spirit and determination here, with Danny Care and Chris Robshaw both influential and their Fijian replacement Semi Kunatani surging clear to finish off the visitors with seven minutes remaining. Share on WhatsApp match reports Leicester Leicester also regarded this as a chance to regather control of their own destiny but the loss of the in-form flanker Guy Thompson and fellow back-row Mike Williams to head knocks inside the first half-hour did not help. Quins looked the more dangerous side with ball in hand and when Smith chipped over his first penalty of the night there appeared relatively little to concern the home supporters. They should have guessed that following Quins is rarely so simple. Having enjoyed the upper hand in the set piece against Exeter a week earlier, Kyle Sinkler and Joe Marler were finding life tougher opposite Ellis Genge and Dan Cole and a tendency to stray offside behind the scrum also ushered Leicester back into the contest.Tigers received further encouragement when Jack Clifford was sent to the sin-bin for clattering Veainu late, even though the onrushing Quins No 8 already looked committed. Such are the slim margins in the game these days and Ford’s fourth penalty of the night just before the interval gave the visitors a slightly unexpected 12-10 lead.Having won only two previous away league games all season, including their vital victory at Kingston Park last month, the question was now whether Leicester could guts it out again. With Clifford back from the bin, however, the home side were soon back in front through a scrum penalty from which Smith made no mistake.last_img