Marcus Smith produced yet more late drama as Eddie Jones’ England wonderkid continued his remarkable season by taking Harlequins into the last 16 of the Heineken Champions Cup.
In a European thriller on a bitterly cold Cardiff night, fly-half Smith took on Cardiff almost singlehandedly and his penalty with the last kick won it for Tabai Matson’s men.
Smith had levelled the game late on with a try of his own while he also created scores for Louis Lynagh, Tyrone Green and Luke Northmore to end with a 16-point haul.
‘I don’t think we were at the races against a very strong Cardiff side. We stuck in there and we’re very resilient at times,’ said Smith.
‘To be rewarded with a penalty in front of the sticks by the forwards who I thought in parts were outstanding is a massive relief.
Marcus Smith’s last-gasp penalty earned Cardiff a 36-33 victory over Harlequins on Friday
Smith created three tries and scored one in the Champions Cup clash at Cardiff Arms Park
‘As backs we’re very lucky to be playing behind a pack that when it gets on top, stays on top.’
Both teams scored five tries in a fine encounter and the only shame was there was no-one here to see it. Had there been a crowd, they would have enjoyed Smith at his creative best.
Harlequins went 31-19 down at one stage in the second half, but Smith didn’t panic. His 75th minute try and conversion tied things up and he wasn’t done there.
‘His touch on the ball, kicking game and composure at the end was exceptional,’ said Harlequins coach Matson of his star man.
Welsh Covid-19 rules meant an empty stadium, but Cardiff were superb and led 14-12 at the break thanks to the superb Owen Lane and James Ratti.
Smith nailed the touchline extras, but in front of Wales’ coaching staff, Cardiff wing Owen Lane then laid down a Six Nations selection marker.
First, he showed too much power for the Harlequins defence to score in the corner. Then, after James Ratti had been driven over, Lane produced a try-saving on Cadan Murley.
Louis Lynagh gets over the line to score his and Harlequins first try in the winner takes all clash
The away side were on top for the majority of the match, but Cardiff stood firm and resolute
Tries: Lane 11, 55, Ratti 18, Lewis 53, Domachowski 55
Cons: Evans 12, 18, 53, 56
Tries: Lynagh 6, Green 40 + 4, Northmore 46, Care 60, Smith 77
Cons: Smith 7, 48, 61, 77
Pen: Smith 80
Cardiff: Amos; Lane (Lewis 30-49) (T Myhill 73), Lee-Lo, Halaholo, Adams; Evans (Priestland 77), T Williams (L Williams 78); Carre (Domachowski 50), K Myhill, Arhip (Lewis 49), Turnbull (capt), Davies, Lewis-Hughes, Jenkins (Boyde 71), Ratti
Replacements not used: Thornton, Thomas
Harlequins: Green; Lynagh, Marchant, Northmore (Jones 50), Murley; Smith, Care; Marler (Garcia Botta 77), Walker (Riley 77), Collier (Kerrod 56), Symons, Lamb, Taulani (White 50), Lawday (Tizard 56), Dombrandt
Replacements not used: Stafford, Edwards
Referee: Tual Trainini (France)
Star man: Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
Ratti’s try had come following a sensational Rey Lee-Lo break.
Cardiff sensed an upset as Rhys Carre produced a superb turnover and the outstanding Tomos Williams outplayed Danny Care.
Jarrod Evans converted both Cardiff tries and missed a penalty but after coming under pressure, Harlequins rallied. Joe Marchant had earlier made a clean line break, but repeated English pressure forced Cardiff prop Dmitri Arhip to the bin after back-to-back home infringements.
Smith then promptly kicked to the opposite corner to where Lynagh had scored. This time, it was Tyrone Green who went over.
Smith kicked ahead yet again when the game resumed. Marchant collected and passed to Care who did the rest, but the try was ruled out for Marchant being in front of Smith.
Still, nothing could stop Smith. He created a third Quins try with a superb inside ball to Alex Dombrandt who sent England hopeful Luke Northmore away.
Lynagh and Green responded and the scores kept coming in the second half. Northmore and Danny Care crossed for Quins.
Lane’s second and tries from Dillon Lewis and Corey Domachowski looked like it would be enough for Cardiff, but they hadn’t banked on more magic from Smith.
A late yellow card for Cardiff’s Kirby Myhill allowed him to score after Dmitri Arhip and Quins captain Alex Dombrandt had also spent 10 minutes on the sidelines.
Cardiff director of rugby Dai Young said of Smith: ‘He didn’t disappoint, he’s such a quality player.
‘He made something happen every time he touched the ball. He’s a bag of tricks. He has a highlight reel every game.’
England sensation Smith continued to shine throughout and helped his side to the last-16
Smith kicked 16 points, inspiring a fightback from 33-19 to help his side clinch the match