Harlequins progress into last four of the European Challenge Cup
Harlequins moved into the semi-finals of the European Challenge Cup with a far from convincing 38-30 win over London Irish in a thrilling game at the Stoop.
Quins, three times winners of the competition, now face a home tie against Grenoble in a fortnight's time as they bid to reach the final in Lyon.
It was a game that Irish could probably have done without as they rested a number of players in readiness for their Aviva Premiership survival shoot-out at Newcastle next Sunday.
However, they put in a totally committed performance and deservedly led 30-18 after 52 minutes before a desperate Quins nicked the game in the final quarter.
Danny Care scored a hat-trick for Quins with Luke Wallace crossing for two. Ben Botica converted two and kicked three penalties. In response, Fergus Mulchrone, Sean Maitland and Brendan McKibbin scored tries for Irish with Shane Geraghty converting all three and adding three penalties.
A full-strength Quins went ahead after seven minutes when a poor kick from Theo Brophy-Clews gave the hosts a line-out in the Irish half. A break from George Lowe put the visitors' defence on the back foot before the ball was recycled for Marland Yarde to send Wallace for the opening try.
Six minutes later, Irish picked up their first points when Geraghty kicked a simple penalty and it was they who surprisingly had the better of the opening quarter in terms of possession and territory.
At that stage, Quins appeared over confident, but despite this looked to have extended their lead when Tim Visser finished off a flowing movement. However, the score was ruled out by the TMO as Mike Brown was deemed to have obstructed a tackler.
It did not matter for long as shortly afterwards an alert Care intercepted a McKibbin pass to race 45 metres to score. Botica converted but Geraghty kept Irish in contention with his second penalty.
Botica extended the lead with a penalty but Irish shocked the hosts by going in front. They scored their first try after 28 minutes when Mulchrone capitalised on a fumble by Visser to pick up and score. Geraghty converted before kicking his third penalty.
Botica responded with his second penalty to give his side an undeserved 18-16 half-time lead, but within four minutes of the restart McKibbin finished off a driving line-out for an Irish try.
Irish looked in control but unfortunately lost skipper David Paice to the sin-bin for a tip tackle, only for Botica to miss the resulting penalty.
The home side brought on David Ward and Kyle Sinckler in the front row but continued to make basic handling errors, which Irish punished by scoring a superb try.
On halfway, Maitland picked up a loose ball to tear through a huge gap in the home defence before rounding Brown to score. Geraghty's conversion gave Irish a 30-18 lead.
Paice was still absent when Care forced his way over for his second try before Irish should have gone down to 13 men when Tom Guest deliberately held back Visser.
Chris Robshaw knocked on in the process of touching down so Paice was able to return with Irish still ahead, but Luke Wallace's second, scored from a driving line-out, brought Quins within two points. Botica missed the conversion but his penalty and Care's third try saw them to the semi-finals.