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Mike Brown sent off but Marcus Smith stars as Harlequins edge high-scoring thriller against Wasps

·4-min read
Marcus Smith stars and Mike Brown sent off as Harlequins edge high-scoring thriller against Wasps - PA
Marcus Smith stars and Mike Brown sent off as Harlequins edge high-scoring thriller against Wasps - PA

Harlequins 48 Wasps 46

Mike Brown was sent off for stamping on the head of Wasps hooker Tommy Taylor in what might prove to be the final appearance in his 17-year career at Harlequins, in a game that will be remembered as one of the most dramatic Premiership matches of all time.

Brown’s red card in the 44th minute looked to have ended Quins’ hopes but his team-mates defied the odds to snatch victory in the final play of the match with a try and conversion by the brilliant Marcus Smith to keep their place in the top four.

It was Smith’s second try in a total points haul of 28, and it was a masterclass display in front of England head coach Eddie Jones following his return from Japan.

Smith afterwards insisted he was still “miles off” where he could be in terms of developing his game.

However Adam Jones, Harlequins' scrum coach, is in no doubt the 22-year-old, who was on Warren Gatland’s long-list for the British and Irish Lions, should be selected for England’s matches this summer against the USA and Canada.

His creativity was as eye-catching as his potency, his to backfield space culminating in a try by Joe Marchant while also distribution was key in tries by James Lang and Alex Dombrandt.

“He’s got to be on the England tour. He’s got to be the future,” said Jones. “He’s a young kid but is growing all the time. He was chatted about with the Lions wasn’t he, so Gats has obviously seen something special in him as well.

“He was brilliant today. It’s a pleasure having an outside-half like that. I’ve got to be honest, if he was Welsh he would have 50 caps by now. He’s very much of the Welsh outside-half ilk. Hopefully he gets picked in the summer and I’m sure he’ll do a grand job.

“Looking at him last year it was whether managing a game was his strong-point, we know he runs the ball and takes it to the line well – but he’s an all-round player now. He’s a great goal-kicker, his line kicking is outstanding, his game management is outstanding.”

Marcus Smith scored 28 points including the match-winning try and conversion - Getty Images
Marcus Smith scored 28 points including the match-winning try and conversion - Getty Images

The elation for Smith was matched by Brown’s despair however. The 35-year-old had already received a yellow card early in the match for deliberating knocking the ball on before referee Wayne Barnes showed him the red card, which also saw a try by Luke Northmore ruled out.

Brown will now face an RFU disciplinary hearing to determine the length of his sanction, with the governing body’s regulations state that any contact with the head area must result in at least a mid-range ban.

Given that the mid-range sanction for stamping or trampling on a player is six weeks, Brown’s only hope of playing again this season is the ban is reduced in mitigation. Quins’ regular campaign concludes at the Stoop on June 12 against Newcastle, the club he is due to join next season.

“In those situations when you’re being held in it can look a lot worse than it was,” added Jones. “There was a lot going on as it happened.

“Of course it would be sad (if it is Brown’s last game). Let’s wait until next week and see what happens. He is gutted. I’m sure the club will go balls-out to defend him as much as we can. Hopefully common sense prevails and the different issues with it come through.”  

Lee Blackett’s side played a full-part in a glorious contest, with Robson capping a fine performance with a try while Paolo Odogwu also scored but left to rue their inability to kill Quins off after Brown’s departure.

Wasps were able to take swift advantage of their extra man, scoring tries by Malakai Fekitoa and Thomas Young to establish a 12-point lead at 36-24, an inspirational talk by Quins prop Joe Marler under the posts sparked a stunning revival spearheaded by Smith and his half-back partner Danny Care, both showing the spirit in adversity that Lions head coach Warren Gatland would have noted.

Care led the way, scoring from the back of a line-out maul, and then remarkably Quins moved in front when Dombrandt powered over Zach Kibirige, with Smith adding the conversion.

When Josh Bassett went over for his second try of the match, latching on to a perfectly-weighted kick by Dan Robson, Wasps appeared to have regained control before a penalty by Smith brought Quins to within a score of victory and then he delivered the coup de grace.

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