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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Alex Spink

England-bound duo Marcus Smith and Nick Evans combine to spark Harlequins

Marcus Smith and Nick Evans combined to give fans a taste of the x-factor rugby England hope will light up the Six Nations.

In his last game before joining Steve Borthwick’s team as attack coach, Evans put together a gameplan that kept Harlequins alive in the Champions Cup.

Fly-half Smith did such a good job of executing it that Quins not only snapped a month-long losing streak but stuck five tries on the previously unbeaten Sharks.

”It was nice for Nick to go out on a high,” said Quins coach Tabai Matson, purring at the quality of tries scored by Alex Dombrandt, Cadan Murley and star player Nick David in particular.

“He orchestrated a pretty good gameplan that when executed like that looked spectacular.”

In only his second game back after injury Smith had his team playing with a zip and a fizz totally absent from England in the dying days of Eddie Jones’ regime.

Matson: “Marcus is clearly a quality player, verging on world class” (Getty Images)

How Borthwick will hope the pair can translate their understanding to the international stage, beginning against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday week.

“Marcus is clearly a quality player, verging on world class,” Matson said. “To do two 80 minutes in a row and be physically in such good condition after the injury he had is phenomenal.

“It shows his work ethic and his preparation because you would never have thought he had that much time out of the game. Great to watch.”

Quins captain Alex Dombrandt is mobbed by team mates after scoring (PA)

The foundation for victory at the Twickenham Stoop was set by a forward pack relishing the challenge posed by Eben Etzebeth and his giant South African pals.

Will Evans won turnovers on an almost industrial scale as Quins played with a ruck speed which brought tries from their first three breaks inside the first quarter.

“We've got a pretty gnarly group of forwards who are not really intimidated but it is mindset that triggers physicality,” Matson added.

Nick David dives to score try of the game for Harlequins (CameraSport via Getty Images)

“If you're not physical and your set-piece doesn't function, you’ve no chance against these guys. But those two things happened.”

How fitting that Danny Care should set the tone for the day after leading the side out with his two children, Blake and Koha, on his 350th appearance.

Within six minutes he darted over from a ruck to cancel out Lukhanyo Am’s smart opener for the Sharks and light the fuse on another display of Quins pyrotechnics.

Sharks' Springboks captain Siya Kolisi is tackled by Joe Marchant (Getty Images)

Moments later Andre Esterhuizen ran the ball up for Smith and David to expertly work captain Dombrandt over for the second.

Already it was apparent Quins’ speed of play was too much for Sharks to handle and they further cashed in with a third score beautifully carved out for England-bound Murley.

Sharks, three from three coming in, were guaranteed qualification but needed a point to keep them on track for a home tie in the Round of 16.

It was a long shot at 21-8, but a second quarter revival closed the gap to two points and fullback Aphelele Fassi’s late score snatched the four-try bonus point.

QUINS - Tries: Care, Dombrandt, Murley, Lewies, David. Cons: Smith 4. Pens: Smith 2.

SHARKS - Tries: Am, Hendrikse, Etzebeth, Fassi. Cons: Bosch 2, Cronje. Pen: Bosch.

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