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Castres welcome Harlequins in fascinating match-up

Friday 10th December 2021

5:00 pm (GMT)

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Castres welcome Harlequins in fascinating match-up

Harlequins' Marcus Smith in action against Racing 92 during last season's Heineken Champions Cup

Something has got to give when Harlequins travel to Castres Olympique on Sunday in the Heineken Champions Cup.

Castres are unbeaten at home in the competition since January 2015 – but that last loss came at the hands of Quins, who have won their last two matches against their French opponents.

The Pool B duel kicks off at 17:30 (UK time & Irish time) on Sunday, and can be watched on BT Sport and beIN Sports.

Other key facts: 

  • Harlequins have won their last two clashes with Castres in the European Cup, that pair of victories coming in the 2014/15 pool stage – but the French side were undefeated in their previous four meetings with the Premiership outfit (W3,D1). 
  • Castres’ largest win in the European Cup and Harlequins’ biggest defeat came when the sides met in January 2005 (58-13). 
  • Harlequins have lost their last five European Cup games against TOP 14 opposition – but their last win in the competition against a TOP14 side was away from home against Castres, in January 2015. 
  • Quins had the best tackle (90%) and lineout (96%) success rates in the Heineken Champions Cup last season, winning 25 out of 26 lineouts on their own throw and missing just 28 tackles across their two matches in the competition. 

Key quote: 

Tabai Matson (Harlequins head coach): “This will be a massive target for them. And for them, playing the current English champions, it’s going to be really important. They’ll know they have to be at their best and they will be. They always bring it in Europe. So, I’m really excited. Castres has got a strong history.” 

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Quins hold on to beat Castres

Sunday 12th December 2021

7:54 pm (GMT)

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Quins hold on to beat Castres

Harlequins fly-half Marcus Smith

Harlequins survived a late rally from Castres Olympique as they picked up an important 20-18 win in the opening round of the Heineken Champions Cup at Stade Pierre Fabre on Saturday.

Quins were on top in the opening stages but were punished for their lack of cutting edge – an excellent chance went begging after Alex Dombrandt’s pass went to ground, and the hosts capitalised minutes later.

Castres winger Filipo Nakosi gathered a clearing kick and dissected the Quins defence with some slick footwork before popping an inside ball to Josaia Raisuqe, who jogged over the line for the game’s opening try on 17 minutes.

Further Quins handling errors followed as they struggled to build attacking phases, but a moment of magic from Danny Care eventually unlocked the Castres defence.

The scrum-half showed terrific awareness to flick the ball away from a stalling maul close to the line and into the hands of Louis Lynagh who slid over in the corner.

Marcus Smith’s conversion gave Quins the lead after Benjamin Urdapilleta had failed to add the extras to Castres’ score.

But the TOP 14 side would head into half time with a four-point lead as Urdapilleta went on to slot two penalties in quick succession and Smith later missed the opportunity to reduce the deficit as his last-gasp kick drifted wide.

However, the England fly-half found his range with a three-pointer early in the second half and Quins wrestled control of the contest as Hugh Tizard teed up Dombrandt to cruise under the posts amid some disorganised Castres defence.

Smith’s conversion put Quins 17-11 up, and the second half minutes ticked by as both sides made handling errors in greasy conditions.

Another Smith penalty on 73 minutes looked to have sealed it for Quins, but Castres managed to gain possession from the restart and after a couple of phases, Martin Laveau sneaked over the whitewash and Urdapilleta converted to set up a nervy finish.

Despite further pressure over the remainder of the game Quins held on as they began their Pool B campaign with a win.

Castres visit Munster Rugby in Round 2 on Saturday while Quins host Cardiff Rugby.

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