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England’s Smith guides Quins past COVID-hit Cardiff

PARIS – England fly-half Marcus Smith scored 18 points as Harlequins beat Cardiff 43-17 in the European Champions Cup on Saturday with the Welsh side naming a second-choice side due to players respecting a two-week quarantine for COVID-19.

Cardiff also lost to holders Toulouse last weekend as stand-in coach Gruff Rees was without 42 first-team squad members after their isolation period following their returning from South Africa earlier this month.

Rees' side led 12-7 early in the first-half after 18-year-old debutant Cam Winnett and Wales back-rower James Botham scored.

"Half-time we were pretty vibrant and buoyed by the whole experience. Then Harlequins squeezed us a little bit and forced mistakes," Rees told Channel 4.

"I've just paid tribute to the senior guys in the huddle as well, unbelievable. The last couple of weeks, to create that environment with the young fellas, and the semi-pros, who came in and flourished.

"It's an all-round good effort," he added.

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The fixture at the Stoop was a rarity in the competition this weekend as five second round matches between French and British sides were postponed on Friday due to strict coronavirus travel rules.

Two further matches were cancelled with Montpellier and Racing 92 handed 28-0 bonus point victories over Leinster and the Ospreys due to Covid-19 cases.

Despite the Welsh side's impressive start in London, Quins led 14-12 after 20 minutes as 22-year-old Smith dotted down after a sublime long-range break.

Smith added a penalty before 20-year-old winger Theo Cabango, the younger brother of Wales centre-back Ben Cabango, finished a superb solo effort on only his second Cardiff appearance just before the break.

QUINS KNOCK-OUT TARGET

England winger Joe Marchant as well as No 8 Alex Dombrandt then showed their quality by scoring, the back-rower who studied at the Welsh capital Cardiff Met university, doing so twice and Smith kicked two conversions as the Stoop outfit claimed a bonus point with the away side tiring.

"We knew it was going to be a tough match with all the disruption they had, they still have a quality side and they put in a great shift against Toulouse," Dombrandt told Channel 4.

"The big target for us is that we want to make it to the knock-out stages," he added after backing up last Sunday's win at Castres.

South Africa centre Andre Esterhuizen claimed Quins' fifth try before Smith reached the 18-point mark with two minutes left.

Later, Exeter Chiefs – title winners in 2020 – head to Glasgow Warriors but the visitors supporters have been asked not to wear "faux Native American headdresses or chant the 'Tomahawk Chop' during the match" by the Scottish club, as they do for home fixtures.

The only Champions Cup tie including a Top 14 outfit this weekend takes Castres to two-time winners Munster in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 at Thomond Park.

The Irish province welcome back a host of senior players after they finished their 14-day isolation period on their return from South Africa.

On Sunday, two-time winners Leicester Tigers travel to Connacht after edging Top 14 leaders Bordeaux-Begles last Saturday.

Artmotion S.Africa

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