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Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 11:11 UK
Premiership final day
10 May, 2008, 1500 BST

Leicester (12) 31
Tries: Herring, Varndell 2, J Murphy, Crane Cons: Goode 3

Harlequins (21) 28
Tries: Brown, Skinner, Williams 2 Cons: Malone 4

Leicester's Tom Varndell is challenged by Tom Williams
Tom Varndell goes over for the first of his two Leicester tries

Leicester snatched a place in the play-offs with a thrilling last-gasp bonus-point victory over Harlequins.

The Tigers were trailing by four points with three minutes to go until wing Tom Varndell's try, which Andy Goode converted, secured an unlikely win.

Quins led for most of the second half and looked like they would claim a place in the semi-finals but the defeat means they finish in sixth place.

Leicester will now face table-toppers Gloucester in the semi-finals.

It was a dramatic recovery for the defending champions, who at one point in the afternoon were lying in seventh place - out of the end-of-season play-offs for the first time as well as next season's Heineken Cup.

That scenario would have almost certainly meant the end for coach Marcelo Loffreda but Varndell's late try, combined with Sale's inability to claim anything from their match with London Irish, meant that Leicester were able to sneak into the top four.

The result is heartbreaking for Quins and their coach Dean Richards, a former Tigers favourite, and they now have an anxious wait to see if they will play in the Heineken Cup.

If they are to feature in Europe's elite club competition next season, they will need Bath - who are already in the Heineken Cup after finishing in third - to beat Worcester in the final of the European Challenge Cup.

For long periods the visitors were in the top four and it took just two minutes for them to go in front with Quins full-back Mike Brown going over from Chris Malone's grubber kick.

The visitors should have extended their lead but just as skipper Will Skinner crossed the line after a 60m burst, he was hauled down by a last-gasp Harry Ellis tackle, spilling the ball in the process.

Leicester got back in it as England scrum-half Ellis saw flanker Ben Herring in space and the Kiwi wrong-footed Chris Brooker to go over.

Varndell beat Brown on the outside before crossing in the corner to give Tigers the lead but the game swung back in the favour of the visitors with their second converted try, former Tiger Skinner scoring from 30m.

Harlequins were living off scraps but they extended their advantage as wing Tom Williams raced onto his own kick to score Quins' third converted try, this after Goode had missed a penalty.

Goode again had a chance with a penalty but the kick hit the post.

After the break it was the home side who were quickest out of the blocks as Johne Murphy collected Herring's flick pass to crash over.

But they were the makers of their own downfall shortly afterwards as a mistake gifted possession back to their opponents.

Malone spotted Williams free on the left wing and he had time to let the ball bounce before picking up and out-running hooker Mefin Davies.

Malone's conversion gave Quins an 11-point lead but he missed two relatively easy penalties and they proved costly as Leicester rallied late on.

First, number eight Jordan Crane piled over and Goode's conversion brought the defending champions to within four points of their opponents.

Then, with three minutes remaining, a moment of magic from Varndell sealed the incredible victory.

The flying winger made a try out of nothing, chipping the ball past Brown before putting on the afterburners and winning the chase to the ball from 40m out.

Leicester captain Martin Corry on whether he thought Leicester could make the play-offs:
To be honest, I wasn't even looking at it. If we beat Quins we got into Europe. For a club the size of this one, it's the basic, minimum standard.

"When the final whistle went, it was relief that we had got into Europe. And then we realised the other results had gone our way.

"It was something that wasn't even on the radar at the start of the day.

"We knew we had to win to get fourth place - it's nothing short of remarkable."

Quins director of rugby Dean Richards:
"We should have won the game. We got nothing from the referee who was not on top form. He was not consistent but he is a top-class referee.

"Leicester have plenty of stars in multiple positions but they were not as well organised as us.

"We played some good stuff and had a lot of young lads in there."

Leicester: G Murphy, Varndell, Hipkiss, Mauger, J Murphy, Goode, Ellis, Stankovich, Davies, White, Wentzel, Kay, Corry, Herring, Crane.
Replacements: Chuter, Ayerza, Blaze, Croft, Laussucq, Vesty, Erinle.

Harlequins: Brown, Williams, Strettle, Masson, Keogh, Malone, Care, Jones, Brooker, Ross, Percival, Robson, Robshaw, Skinner, Easter.
Replacements: Croall, Brooks, Evans, Guest, So'oialo, Jarvis, Barry.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

see also
Loffreda grateful for Tigers win
10 May 08 |  English
Premiership play-off line-up
10 May 08 |  English
Premiership photos
10 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Newcastle 28-25 Leicester
04 May 08 |  English
Harlequins 16-23 Sale
04 May 08 |  English
Newcastle 13-32 Wasps
07 May 08 |  English
London Irish 43-20 Leeds
04 May 08 |  English

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