Danny Care could miss key title clashes after fourth yellow card

Marcus Smith revelled in his return to membership rugby after the ups and downs of the Six Nations as Harlequins scored seven tries to slam down a powerful marker within the Premiership title race.

Smith regarded a contented fly-half as he demanded the ball from set-pieces and flung pinpoint cut-out passes to reveal his complete consolation inside the Quins construction – one thing England supporters can also yearn to see over the following 18 months as much as and together with the World Cup.

He had managed only one try-scoring help – a cross to Elliot Daly in Italy – as his nation’s attacking sport spluttered throughout the Six Nations however Smith offered two of these inside 5 first-half minutes right here, as he made his first Quins look since January, with Cadan Murley and Huw Jones the beneficiaries.

As Tabai Matson, the Harlequins head coach, put it: “It took him [Smith] two minutes to get back into the flow. He has played 100 games in this system, that makes it easy for him.”

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Irish received the reverse fixture 4 miles down the highway on the Stoop in November, however their play-off probabilities have light badly with three heavy defeats on the spin. Their need to thrill got here with too many spills: two tries tossed away with fingertipped fumbles from Ollie Hassell-Collins and Lucio Cinti, and a few misplaced passes to opponents. “We probably converted 10 or 20 per cent of the chances that came our way,” mentioned Declan Kidney, the deflated director of rugby.

Quins have shrugged off their very own mid-season wobble of three losses, and now have 5 league wins in a row for the primary time in three years. A bye week within the earlier spherical of the Premiership noticed them lock the training-ground doorways and ship gamers off to Dubai, Barbados and throughout – though poor Matson had Covid-19 and stayed put.

However the previous weekend’s outcomes have left the reigning champions solidly in third place behind the favourites Leicester and Saracens, and forward of the logjam in pursuit of fourth. Not that Harlequins have it simple, with Leicester, Northampton, Gloucester and Exeter nonetheless to play within the league, on the again of a home-and-away last-16 European Champions Cup tie in opposition to France’s league leaders Montpellier within the subsequent fortnight.

Danny Care’s half in all that is fascinating. The 35-year-old scrum-half had Quins’ fifth attempt early within the second half, whereas his reverse quantity Nick Phipps was within the sin bin, and usually bossed the damaged area along with his imaginative and prescient and footballing ability.

However Care additionally went to the sin bin within the 61st minute for a deliberate knock-on, and it was his fourth yellow card in successive matches and fifth of the season to equal an ignominious document held by Garath Archer from the combative former second row’s days at Bristol.

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If the countback reveals three of Care’s playing cards had been for foul play, he’ll face a disciplinary listening to with the danger of lacking an enormous match within the run-in. “Clearly I love the guy so I don’t think he’s doing it with any wilful intent,” Matson mentioned. “But he’s clearly knocking down the ball in those two-on-one situations.”

On this event, Quins simply rode out the inconvenience, backed by supporters who boosted the group in noise and numbers. With Joe Marler, one other of their England returnees alongside Joe Marchant and Alex Dombrandt, having fun with life within the scrum, they had been 29-7 up when Care made the acquainted stroll to the sidelines.

Smith, who missed three conversions, was given a deliberate relaxation as Will Edwards got here on, and Quins sauntered to a sixth attempt by Andre Esterhuizen whereas they had been all the way down to 14 males.

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