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Will Carpenter


Posted Friday, September 20th 2019

Report: Harlequins 24-12 Bristol Bears

Bristol Bears fell to defeat in the opening game of the new season, as Harlequins took the spoils in Friday night’s Premiership Cup opener at The Stoop.

Aaron Morris’ first-half double surged Quins into a 17-0 lead five minutes before the interval, before Tom Pincus hit back for the Bears to narrow the half-time deficit.

And after 37 scoreless second-half minutes, Charlie Mulchrone’s late try sealed the deal for the home side, with a fine solo effort from Mat Protheroe offering little more than a consolation for Pat Lam’s men.

What happened?

Brett Herron’s third-minute penalty fired the hosts into an early lead after a Bristol error from the kick-off, before the visitors were denied the first try of the season by the TMO, ruling out Ed Holmes’ close-range effort for a double movement.

Instead, it was Quins who were first to cross the whitewash courtesy of full-back Aaron Morris, latching on to Ross Chisholm’s outside break before applying a simple finish.

Handling errors from both sides dominated much of the opening period, as the teams probed for some early season rhythm in front of the BT Sport cameras. 

The game roared back to life five minutes before the interval, with a second try for Morris, applying the finishing touches to Charlie Mulchrone’s sweeping break from deep.

But it was Bristol who had the final say of the half with a try from Pincus, who climbed highest to claim Ian Madigan’s pinpoint cross-field kick and stretch over from close range to steer his side back into the contest.

Tom Pincus stretches over for Bristol's opening score (JMPUK).

The game endured a slow start to the second-half, with spells of tempo punctuated by handling errors on both sides of the ball.

Bristol almost crossed for a second try on 52 minutes, as replacement Nic Stirzaker's offload fell nicely for the supporting Sam Bedlow - but with the line at his mercy, the ball spilt from the centre's grasp to afford Quins another let-off.

At the other end, the hosts also came close to adding to their first-half score, with Herron’s long-range penalty striking the upright and rebounding safely into the arms of Will Capon.

Much like the first-half, it was the closing stages that saw the lion's share of the action, with a late try apiece lighting up the final five minutes.

First, Mulchrone capped an impressive display with Quins' third try on 77 minutes, collecting Simon Kerrod's offload to touch down late on.

But it was Protheroe who grabbed the try of the evening, scything through the hosts’ defence to race in from all of 50 metres for a trademark score. 

Eden converted, and Bristol were soon chasing a third try, which would have earned a losing bonus-point. But a late lineout went astray as Quins sealed victory in West London.

The teams:

Harlequins: Morris, R Chisholm, Marchant, Tapuai, Ibitoye, Herron, Saunders; Auterac, Crumpton, Swainston, Young, Lamb, Lawday, Evans, J Chisholm.
Replacements: Musk, Garcia Botta, Kerrod, Freeman, Clifford, Mulchrone, Saili, Lynagh.

Bristol Bears: Protheroe, Pincus, Bedlow, Eden, Fricker (Bates 72); Madigan (Ascherl 54), Randall (Stirzaker 49); Y Thomas (Dawe 72), Malton (Capon 49), Lahiff (N Thomas 61), Muldowney (Hawkins 49), Holmes, Dun, Heenan (c), Batley (Kloska 70). Replacements: Capon, Dawe, N Thomas, Hawkins, Kloska, Stirzaker, Ascherl, Bates.

Harlequins: Tries: Morris 14, 36, Mulchrone 77. Cons: Herron 14, 36, 77. Pens: Herron 3

Bristol Bears: Tries: Pincus 39, Protheroe 78. Cons: Eden 78

Key moment:

After a scoreless opening 37 minutes of the second-half, Charlie Mulchrone latched on to an offload from Aaron Morris to put the game to bed late on, after Bristol had pushed hard for a route back into the game. 

Man of the match: Mat Protheroe

A solid showing from the elusive full-back, illuminated by a sensational solo try two minutes from time.

Protheroe varied his game well throughout, kicking and counter-attacking with precision in the first outing of the season. 

A trademark break saw Protheroe race clear from one such counter attack, stepping his way through the Quins defence before evading the covering Ibitoye for Bristol's second score. 

Lam reaction

Photo of the match

Tom Pincus climbs high to collect Madigan's crossfield kick and touch down.

Social media reaction