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Quins lead the way after close win

Harlequins showed their strength in depth as they returned to the top of the Aviva Premiership with a 28-25 win a few hours after being overtaken by Leicester Tigers.

Full-back Mike Brown, released from the England training squad for the weekend, scored their first try with stand-in players Matt Hopper and Sam Smith also touching down.

Fly-half Nick Evans, back after an ankle injury, provided an instant return on the new three-year contract he signed earlier in the week by kicking 13 points for Quins. Evans' opposite number Freddie Burns kept fourth-placed Gloucester in contention with six penalties from six attempts before converting a late try by centre Billy Twelvetrees which salvaged a losing bonus point.

Evans marked his return by kicking his side ahead with a sixth-minute penalty but Burns cancelled it out four minutes later after the Quins scrum was penalised.

Gloucester had made a lively start but the home side scored the first try. Evans found touch with a penalty from just inside the Gloucester half and hooker Joe Gray's long throw released Maurie Fa'asavalu off the tail of the lineout. The flanker was hauled down short of the line but Quins quickly moved the ball out wide, where Evans and right-wing Tom Williams combined to find Brown who squeezed over in the left corner and Evans converted from the touchline.

Former England captain Mike Tindall showed a neat sidestep behind his own line and clever pass to get Gloucester out of trouble when they come under pressure behind their scrum. Tindall was also prominent in the next attack which resulted in Burns kicking the visitors 12-10 ahead with his fourth penalty after 34 minutes.

But Harlequins responded as Dickson, deputising with Care away on England duty, caught Gloucester off guard with a quickly-taken tap penalty and Williams was there again to supply the final pass and send Hopper, who has replaced the injured George Lowe in recent weeks, over near the right-hand corner flag but this time Evans drifted his conversion kick wide.

James Simpson-Daniel's pass was then intercepted on the halfway line by Smith - Monye's replacement - who showed a clean pair of heels as he raced half the length of the pitch to touch down and leave Evans a straightforward conversion.

Evans missed a 57th-minute penalty for Harlequins but made amends, from 40 metres, three minutes later before Burns landed his sixth in the 62nd minute. Evans landed his third penalty seven minutes from time.

England No 8 Ben Morgan, who had just returned from seven minutes off the field having treatment to a gashed head, became the second visitor to be sin-binned for illegally disrupting a Quins attack as they pressed for a fourth try. But 14-man Gloucester launched a counter-attack which produced a last-ditch try for Twelvetrees, converted by Burns, to grab their consolation point.


From Belfast Telegraph