Marchant shines with brace of tries as Harlequins hold off valiant Gloucester
Joe Marchant pointed towards England's growing depth at outside centre by plundering two tries in Harlequins' 28-24 victory over Gloucester.
Marchant crossed in each half to help Quins climb into the top six of the Aviva Premiership at the expense of Northampton before a crowd of 77,567 in 'Big Game 9' at Twickenham.
Elliot Daly is pressing Jonathan Joseph for England's number 13 jersey, but 2016 junior world cup winner Marchant suggested there is depth beyond the established pair headed by Joseph.
Somehow Red Rose prop Joe Marler finished the match despite repeatedly receiving medical attention, while Jack Clifford hinted that he could fill the void at number eight left by Billy Vunipola's knee injury with a strong afternoon.
Quins, who lost Chris Robshaw shortly before kick-off because of a shoulder injury, led 28-10 on the hour mark and seemed destined to secure the bonus point only for tries from Gareth Evans and Motu Matu'u to result in a nervy finish.
Four of the match's five tries were scored in the second half, breathing life into an otherwise low-quality contest that finished with the 2012 champions scrambling desperately to keep out a last-gasp Gloucester drive.
The first quarter passed without score with neither line coming under serious threat, although Billy Twelvetrees might have created an opening had he passed instead of launching a speculative kick to the right when presented with an overlap.
Kyle Sinckler and Jamie Roberts created a half-chance for Tim Visser, but Gloucester plugged the gap effectively while the Scotland wing ignored the unmarked Luke Wallace outside him.
Quins showed signs of settling and they almost breached the whitewash when Visser's athleticism created momentum that ended when replacement lock Jeremy Thrush held up Ron Buchanan over the line.
The first try was delivered in the 27th minute, arising from a pre-planned scrum move that saw Jamie Roberts run a decoy line as Ruaridh Jackson looped around and fed Marchant, whose line carried him outside Charlie Sharples' reach.
Gloucester had controlled lengthy spells of the opening half and their efforts were finally rewarded when Greig Laidlaw landed a penalty, although this was soon wiped out when Jackson replied in kind.
Jonny May's heart was in his mouth when he was shown a red card for slapping the ball away while on the floor, but JP Doyle had intended for the England wing to see yellow and quickly corrected his error.
It took only 28 seconds after the interval for Quins to claim a second try, with the error-prone Sharples involved three times in the build-up.
First he missed an attempt at catching a kick, then he misjudged collecting Mike Brown's chip through and finally he allowed man of the match Clifford to brush him aside en route to scoring.
Marland Yarde became the latest England wing to blunder when he missed a simple catch behind his line, but luckily James Hook was judged to have been offside when he gathered and touched down the loose ball.
The momentum was with Gloucester, however, and despite having May in the sin-bin they powered over from close range through number eight Evans.
But their encouraging work was undone by an alarming defensive lapse that enabled Marchant to run in a second try from the set piece, fending off opposite number Matt Scott for a try that should not have been scored.
Gloucester exploited an overlap to send Hook over and with victory seemingly beyond them, they then finished a line-out drive through Matu'u that was converted by Billy Burns to leave them only four points adrift.
And had they displayed a bit more composure, they could have completed the comeback and the match ended with the odd sight of May running across the halfway line in search of space to use his speed.