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Page last updated at 20:28 GMT, Friday, 20 May 2011 21:28 UK

Harlequins 19-18 Stade Francais

Harlequins (9) 19
Tries: Camacho Cons: Evans Pens: Evans 4
Stade Francais (6) 18
Pens: Beauxis 4 Drop-goals: Bastareaud, Rodriguez

By Bryn Palmer
BBC Sport at the Cardiff City stadium

Gonzalo Camacho
Gonzalo Camacho scored the only try of the game

Harlequins became the first side to win the European Challenge Cup three times in stunning style with a dramatic last-ditch victory over Stade Francais at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Quins, champions in 2001 and 2004, appeared to be out of it when they trailed 18-12 with seven minutes left.

But Joe Marler and Danny Care conjured a try for wing Gonzalo Camacho with three minutes left, and Nick Evans composed himself to land the conversion from the right touchline.

Quins then survived a Stade scrum inside their own half before Care booted the ball into touch to spark wild celebrations as they secured the prized goal of a place in next season's Heineken Cup.

Failure to qualify for Europe's premier competition was a shattering blow for the cosmopolitan Parisian outfit, after a remarkable finale to a game that seemed to be slipping from Quins' grasp.

Stade transformed a 9-3 deficit after 27 minutes with 12 unanswered points - three penalties from fly-half Lionel Beauxis and a drop-goal from centre Mathieu Bastareaud - to lead 15-9 just before the hour.

Evans' fourth penalty with 13 minutes left gave Conor O'Shea's side hope, but after a 45m drop-goal from Stade full-back Martin Rodriguez, there appeared no way back.

But emerging prop Marler, already very much on the radar of the England management, found the energy to surge through a gap before offloading to the supporting Care.

The scrum-half suddenly found himself in space and, sizing up the situation, sent a delicate left-footed chip to his right into the path of Camacho, who ducked under the remaining cover to score.

That brought Quins to within a point, and All Black Evans, who left his native New Zealand three years ago with Dan Carter barring his way to further international recognition, held his nerve to land the winning kick.

That allowed the English side to surpass Sale Sharks and Clermont Auvergne - also two-time winners - in the history of the second-tier European competition.

Stade had started with purpose, looking to move the ball wide at every opportunity, but getting little change out of the Quins defence.

Nick Easter took great pleasure in dumping his England team-mate James Haskell on his backside with a thumping tackle, and Evans kicked Quins into an early lead when Sergio Parisse was penalised for holding on in the tackle.

The impressive Beauxis booted one over from halfway to level matters but Quins were back in front after 15 minutes when Stade overthrew a line-out, Quins' Samoan flanker Maurie Fa'asavalu claimed the loose ball and rampaged away, forcing Stade to infringe.

Evans kicked Quins 6-3 ahead, but with Beauxis keeping them at arms' length with a series of touch-finders, they struggled to create openings.

After 26 minutes Quins kicked a penalty to touch inside the Stade 22, but Marler was wrapped up in the tackle and Stade turned it over, only for Stade scrum-half Julien Dupuy to kick it straight back to Quins, who were slightly fortunate to be awarded a further penalty after Camacho attempted an ambitious pass.

Referee George Clancy decided that Stade wing Djibril Camara had deliberately slapped the ball down and Evans landed his third penalty to make it 9-3.

Dupuy and the inspirational Parisse both started to become more influential, the Italian weaving his way out of two tackles before being stopped 5m short.

But Quins fell offside in midfield, and Beauxis had the simple job of making it 9-6 in the 33rd minute.

Just before the interval, Quins worked hard to force a turnover, only to see Care kick the ball out on the full.

They were similarly imprecise in their execution on the resumption, as a series of errors allowed the French side to wrest control.

Easter spilled the kick-off to immediately gift Stade field position, and Quins were fortunate that an offload from the charging Bastareaud to his centre partner Guillaume Bousses was ruled marginally forward as he lined up full-back Mike Brown with the whitewash in his sights.

Quins sought to keep the tempo high as Care took a quick tap penalty, but his long pass eluded Easter and Stade wing Julien Arias was onto it in a flash, almost leading to a try in the right corner.

The momentum had shifted, though, and with Stade camped inside the Quins 22, Easter ambled into the side of a ruck to concede a penalty that Beauxis slotted with ease to level matters.

When cool heads were called for, Quins seemed to lose theirs, centre George Lowe putting them in trouble when he took one step too many on his own 22.

From the resultant scrum, Beauxis twice shaped to drop for goal, only to find the Quins defence up in his face. Instead, it was the unlikely figure of Bastareaud who calmly slotted one over, left-footed, from 25m to nudge Stade ahead for the first time.

It was one-way traffic and Easter did well to track back to prevent a try, while Beauxis was woefully off target with a drop-goal attempt.

Stade were also getting on top in the scrum, Haskell scragging Easter as he tried to tidy up a retreating ball. Another big Stade scrum earned a penalty which Beauxis dispatched to make it 15-9, and Quins were relieved to see the dangerous Camara's chip and chase down the left go beyond the dead ball line.

Harlequins needed some respite, and appeared to have earned it when they were awarded a penalty just inside the Stade half, but Evans chose a bad time to miss his first shot at goal.

Brown then compounded matters by missing touch with a penalty, but salvation arrived in the shape of an Evans penalty with 13 minutes left, to reduce the deficit to three points.

A high tackle by Tom Palmer on Brown allowed Quins to kick themselves into a danger area with the penalty, only to lose the line-out as Arias escaped upfield.

The ebb and flow was unrelenting, but with seven minutes left Rodriguez showed impressive calm to look up out on the left touchline and slot a drop-goal that extended Stade's advantage to six points.

That appeared to be enough in such a tight game, but Quins roused themselves spectacularly to deliver an extraordinary finale.

Harlequins: Brown; Camacho, Lowe, Turner-Hall, Monye; Evans, Care; Marler, Gray, Johnston, Kohn, Robson, Fa'asavalu, Robshaw (capt), Easter.

Replacements: Skinner (for Fa'asavalu, 60), Chisholm for Lowe (75)

Stade Francais: Rodriguez, Arias, Bastareaud, Bousses, Camara, Beauxis, Dupuy, Roncero, Bonfils, Attoub, Palmer, Pape, Haskell, Burban, Parisse.

Replacements: Leguizamon for Burban (37).

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)

Attendance: 12,236



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see also
Quins can build 'dynasty' - Evans
21 May 11 |  Rugby Union
Quins target stylish Euro triumph
18 May 11 |  Rugby Union
Munster 12-20 Harlequins
29 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union
Harlequins 32-22 Wasps
08 Apr 11 |  Rugby Union


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