Stubborn Connacht eventually go down heavily at Harlequins
Harlequins 47 - 8 Connacht
HARLEQUINS sealed qualification for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup with a convincing win over a stubborn Connacht at the Stoop.
Harlequins took some time to subdue an enterprising Connacht and were fortunate to lead 6-3 after the first half an hour.
Their set scrum then emphasised their superiority to ensure there was no way back for the Irish who were briefly reduced to 12 men in the second half as they fell to a heavy defeat.
The Quins' final group game is at Biarritz next Friday, on which will depend whether they can secure a home tie in the competition when it resumes in April.
Harlequins recalled Ugo Monye for his 200th appearance for the club and Mike Brown, who were rested for last week's win over London Welsh whilst Dan Parks was an absentee through injury for the Irish.
Connacht had the first opportunity for points. They capitalised on a Quins mistake to break out of their own 22 and had full back Robbie Henshaw passed outside to Tiernan O'Halloran, a try seemed a probability, but Henshaw passed inside and the chance was lost.
After eight minutes the hosts had their first chance and Nick Evans made no mistake with his penalty kick but that was soon nullified by one from Matthew Jarvis.
Evans put Quins back into the lead with another penalty after Jason Harris-Wright was penalised for not releasing before the visitors were then dealt a further blow when their No 8 Eoin McKeon limped off to be replaced by Mick Kearney.
The first quarter was evenly contested with both sides moving the ball at nearly opportunity but careless handling prevented any tries.
Connacht were unfortunate not to pick up the first try when a clever pass saw O'Halloran easily breach the home defence, but after a 35-metre run, the wing was hauled down by Monye just short of the line.
Evans missed a penalty and declined to take another as Quins opted for a more attacking option and it paid dividends when they were awarded a penalty try following a succession of scrum infringements by the visitors. Evans converted and added a penalty to give his side a 16-3 interval lead.
Within two minutes of the restart, Quins had sealed the match. A brilliant run from Brown saw him beat three defenders before sending Tom Williams away on a 40 metre run to the line for a try which Evans converted.
Connacht were reduced to 13 men when firstly Johnny O'Connor foolishly picked up a yellow card as he deliberately impeded a Quins' tackler and almost immediately, Fetu'u Vainikolo, went the same way for an obstruction on Monye as the wing raced for a possible touchdown.
Williams finished off a routine three-quarter movement for his second try before Joe Marler and Connacht replacement, Ethienne Reynecke were sin-binned for fighting.
For a minute Connacht were down to 12 players before Vainikolo and O'Connor returned and it was the latter who deservedly collected a try for the Irish by driving over from close range.
Back came Quins for the final say with first Monye celebrating his achievement with a solo effort for the bonus point try before late converted tries from replacements George Lowe and Ben Botica ensured an emphatic victory.