Quins last hope for Heineken Cup knock out

Quins last hope for Heineken Cup knock out

It was the cruellest of bounces that ultimately determined the winner of a scrappy affair last Friday night, with Harlequins beating Gloucester 21-14 to keep their Heineken Cup dreams alive.

Back in November the Cherry and Whites were just 10 minutes away from a memorable win against Toulouse.

Harlequins will hope that the West Countrymen will be able to go one better at Kingsholm against the French champions on Friday. Only a win for the home side will allow Quins to top Pool 6 with a win of their own away at Connacht.

Despite Redpath insisting that Gloucester will field a full strength side, few will expect the English team to win given their patchy form this season. If Toulouse do then go on to win their final game of the group stages, Harlequins will be left at the mercy of the Bonus Point system, fighting it out for the eighth and final place in the quarter finals with the other likely contenders - Edinburgh and Cardiff Blues from Pool 2, and Clermont in Pool 4.

Whilst the bonus point system has been successful in encouraging attacking rugby and 80 minute defence performances, it has one unintended impact. In pubs, bars, rugby clubs and tea rooms in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Clermont, rugby fans will be scratching their heads trying to work out the combination of wins, losses and bonus points that will see their team through.

Whatever happens Quins must win in Connacht and in reality will need to take a bonus point against the Irish if they are to stand any real prospect of snatching the eighth slot.

The good news is that Connacht has now lost 14 consecutive games in all competitions. But Quins will know not take for granted a difficult trip to Galway in a game that is likely to be physical and competitive for the full 80 minutes.

When the two teams met for the opening game of Pool 6 back in November Quins managed a win, but just eight points separated them on the night. And on Friday a spirited Connacht held out until the last few minutes before conceding a winning bonus point to Toulouse.

Knowing that winning from the boot of Nick Evans (back from injury at the weekend) will not be enough for the bonus point they desperately need, I expect Quins to attack from the start with pace and intensity and get width on the ball, trying to avoid the game turning into a forward arm wrestle.

Newly appointed member of England's EPS Mike Brown will be a constant threat as he attempts to add to his impressive tally of European scores this season; while Turner Hall and Ugo Monye will also be keen to find form ahead of international selection with England and the Saxons.

Even if the Quins don't manage to secure their first quarter final in the Heineken Cup since 2009, few will forget the historic win in France against Toulouse, and many will fancy them to progress in the Amlin Cup, the final of which is to be held at the Stoop in May.

Qualify and few teams will fancy the potential banana skin of the south Londonteam who continue to grow in confidence.

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