Heineken Cup: Harlequins maintain perfect record with crushing win over Zebre
Last Updated: 08/12/12 8:05pm
Harlequins have moved a step closer to clinching a place in the Heineken Cup play-offs following a crushing 57-14 victory over Zebre.
The Aviva Premiership leaders made light work of the RaboDirect PRO12 strugglers, outscoring their hosts by seven tries to two.
Sam Smith scored two first-half tries for Quins with Leonardo Sarto touching down for the Italians three minutes before half time.
However, the visitors remained perfect in Pool Three thanks to further tires from Nick Easter, Matt Hopper, a penalty try, Rob Buchanan and Ben Botica.
Harlequins' first try came for Smith on 26 minutes, a routine dash for the corner after the Zebre defence had been stretched on the back of a Maurie Fa'asavalu turnover.
Nick Evans converted, adding to an earlier penalty, and already it looked as though the game was up for a desperately limited Zebre side, who failed to get out of their own half in the opening half hour.
Things went from bad to worse for the hapless Italians when serial offender Mauro Bergamasco was sent to the sin-bin for a ruck offence.
With that it looked as though the floodgates would open, and Smith helped himself to a second try after linking superbly with Tom Williams. Again Evans converted to leave Quins 17-0 up and coasting.
Complacency cost Quins as they went in search of a third try before half-time, and it was Zebre who instead struck next, Leonardo Sarto racing away after one too many passes cost Quins.
It was shortlived joy for Zebre, and Quins were back in business within three minutes of the restart as Easter bagged their third try after the visiting forwards wrestled the home pack into submission.
Danny Care, Matt Hopper and Mike Brown all went close to adding a fourth, but in the end it was the forwards that took the plaudits, forcing a penalty try after dominating the home scrum.
They would do so again later in the half as Zebre went into meltdown, and sandwiched in between was a fine individual try by Hopper, who showed great footwork to outmanoeuvre the home defence.
He was eclipsed shortly after, however, by substitute prop Buchanan, who scored with practically his first touch after another irresistible attack by rampant Quins.
A late try by Alberto Chillon proved scant consolation for a disillusioned Zebre, and it was left to another substitute, Botica, to wrap up the scoring for Quins.
With Biarritz losing to Connacht on Friday night, Quins' destiny now lies in their own hands and victory in next week's return against Zebre will effectively seal their passage through to the quarter-finals.
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Heineken Cup week three 2012/13
Cardiff had their Heineken Cup hopes ended after falling to a third straight Pool Six loss at the hands of Montpellier.
Jonathan Humphreys praised the commitment and character shown by his Ospreys side after their 30-14 defeat by Toulouse.
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea refused to be carried away by the emphatic win over Zebre.
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