European Rugby Champions Cup: Harlequins bow out with 47-19 win at Castres
Last Updated: 26/01/15 1:06pm
Harlequins did all they could to stake a claim for a European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-final berth with a 47-19 thrashing of Castres at the Stade Pierre Antoine on Saturday, but their efforts proved to be in vein.
Joe Marler, Charlie Walker, Danny Care, Jack Clifford, Mark Lambert, Marland Yarde and George Lowe all scored tries as the Londoners claimed an emphatic bonus-point win, but Wasps’ draw with Leinster means their tournament is over.
Castres entered the final round as the only side in Pool 2 without a chance of making the knockout stages and a share of the spoils in Coventry meant Wasps sealed second spot, but even still, their fate hangs in the hands of results elsewhere.
Harlequins made a flying start as captain Marler led from the front, forcing his way over the line in the opening stages and returning fly-half Nick Evans slotted the conversion.
The visitors’ lead was short-lived, though, as Castres scrum-half Antoine Duport wriggled his way through to put the home side on the board, and Julien Dumora added the extras to level the scores.
As the snow started to fall the expansive nature of the game continued, with Quins winger Walker flying over for a second score for Conor O’Shea’s men.
Just eight minutes, later centre Romain Cabannes hit back for Castres and Dumora again restored parity from the kicking tee, but it was Harlequins who took the advantage into the break.
After Castres midfielder Thomas Combezou was shown a yellow card, England scrum-half Care sniped through the hosts’ defence to take Harlequins within one score of the bonus-point they so dearly craved.
With the Top 14 side starting the second half a man down, Harlequins made sure of a maximum points haul when flanker Jack Clifford crossed for the fourth try, which was duly converted by Evans.
Castres were again reduced to 14 men when wing Remy Grosso was sent to the sin-bin and his indiscipline opened the floodgates for a Quins onslaught.
Replacement prop Lambert was first to crash over the whitewash before England wing Yarde raced home after some nifty footwork from Evans as the Londoners scored two tries in as many minutes.
Scottish back-rower Johnnie Beattie posted Castres’ lone try of the second half with 15 minutes to play, but it was a mere consolation for the hosts, who still trailed by 21 points.
Castres’ reprieve was short-lived as Quins centre Lowe took their tally to seven and Evans’ conversion extended the lead to 28 points, although it was not enough to see them move above Wasps in the Pool 2 standings.
O’Shea’s men will no longer feature in Europe, but will now turn attention to ensuring they make the Premiership knockout stages come May.