Quins edge out Gloucester
Harlequins snatched an unlikely 29-26 victory over Gloucester as the visitors departed Twickenham Stoop wondering exactly how they had managed to lose.
Quins spent most of an uninspiring mid-table clash feeding off scraps due to the overwhelming superiority of the visiting scrum, only to produce the key drive in the 70th minute that was finished by Marland Yarde.
As half time drew close, referee Luke Pearce had finally lost patience with Harlequins set-piece frailty and pointed the finger at Joe Marler by sending the club captain to the sin-bin.
Gloucester only entered the interval 13-11 ahead - a poor return given their ascendency - and then moved 18-11 clear through a Charlie Sharples try with half an hour remaining to suggest their eighth win of the season was imminent.
The kicking of Nick Evans kept Quins in touch - the Kiwi fly-half finished with 14 points - before an eventful final quarter produced a flurry of yellow cards and three tries.
Yarde seized the initiative for the London club and full-back Ollie Lindsay-Hague appeared to have sealed the victory, only for Dan Robson's try with a minute left to give Gloucester a faint glimmer of hope until they aimlessly kicked the ball away in the last act of the game.
The opening 10 minutes were dominated by Gloucester's scrum, yet it was Quins who opened the scoring when outside centre Asaeli Tikoirotuma jinked into space before sending Charlie Walker over.
Walker's try was the result of a clinical counter attack, but the 2012 Premiership champions were immediately back under pressure once play resumed with their set-piece targeted once more, conceding a penalty that Greig Laidlaw sent between the uprights.
Laidlaw and Evans exchanged penalties and just as Quins began to attack with greater frequency, yet another retreating scrum gave Gloucester the platform to race into a 31st minute lead.
Hook broke the gainline with a large dummy - his second of the afternoon - and found Bill Meakes in support, with the outside centre showing strength to force his way over from 10 yards out.
Gloucester's set-piece dominance was rewarded when Pearce sent Marler to the sin bin, but they were unable to turn a push late in the first half into points.
A big step and outside-break from full-back Lindsay-Hague created a half-chance for Yarde moments after the interval, but the England wing was well tackled.
It was then Gloucester's turn to find space through Jonny May down the right wing only for Sharples to drop what should have been a try scoring pass.
Two attacking scrums later, however, and Sharples dived over after Meakes had spotted the overlap caused by Quins being sucked into the one-sided forward exchanges.
Evans' boot whittled down the deficit to one point but as the match entered the final quarter number eight Jack Clifford was shown a yellow card for a shoulder challenge on Sharples and Laidlaw rifled over the ensuing penalty.
Despite being a man down, Quins almost scored with two successive rolling mauls and on both occasions Gloucester saw a player sin-binned - replacement lock Ross Moriarty for bringing down the first drive and Sharples for a deliberate knock on.
On the third line-out catch and drive they succeeded, with Yarde touching down as the game entered the final 10 minutes.
Lindsay-Hague and replacement scrum-half Robson then swapped late tries to bring the game to a dramatic if scrappy conclusion.