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Two sides who had hoped for Heineken Champions Cup glory this season must battle it out in the European Rugby Challenge Cup Round of 16 instead.
Harlequins and Ulster both failed to progress in Europe’s premier club competition, but will relish the opportunity to lift European silverware in the form of the Challenge Cup.
Defeats to Munster Rugby (21-7) and Racing 92 (49-7) for the Gallagher Premiership side were matched in the Pool stage by Ulster who suffered close reverses at the hands of Toulouse (22-29) and Gloucester Rugby (34-38).
Redemption is the focus for both sides at The Stoop as the Round of 16 action comes to a close. Kick-off is at 20:00 (British and Irish time) and is live on BT Sport.
Harlequins: 11th in Heineken Champions Cup Pool B (0 points)
Ulster Rugby: 9th in Heineken Champions Cup Pool B (3 points)
Harlequins wins: 2
Ulster Rugby wins: 5
Leading 2020/21 points-scorers:
Harlequins: Scott Steel, Cadan Murley (5)
Ulster Rugby: John Cooney (24)
HERE WE GOOOOOOOO 💪
The bank holiday weekend is upon us and we've got 8 mouth-watering #ChallengeCupRugby clashes to come 🤩
The action kicks off at 3pm this afternoon in Italy where @ZebreRugby welcome @BathRugby 🏉 pic.twitter.com/QwJleXE2zz
— Challenge Cup (@ERChallengeCup) April 2, 2021
- Harlequins and Ulster have faced each other seven times in European competition, all of those meetings coming in the Heineken Champions Cup, with Harlequins winning their first two encounters before the Irish province claimed victories in the following five.
- Harlequins have lost only one of their last five games in the Challenge Cup (W4) but it was the most recent one, in the 2018/19 semi-final against Clermont Auvergne (27-32).
- Harlequins have won 15 of their last 16 home games in the Challenge Cup (L1) including the last three; they have won all three of their home games played against a team from Ireland in the competition, all against Connacht.
- Ulster will play their first ever game in the Challenge Cup, after 157 games played in the Heineken Champions Cup; they lost their last three away games in the Heineken Champions Cup after winning four of the previous five (L1).
- Ulster have won nine of their last 11 European fixtures against Premiership opponents (L2), however one of their two defeats in that run came in their most recent such match (v Gloucester).
- Harlequins are three-time winners of the Challenge Cup, only Clermont (also 3) have won the competition as often, their last triumph coming in 2010/11.
- Harlequins made more infringements (32 – penalties and free-kicks) than any other side in the Heineken Champions Cup this season, as well being shown more yellow cards (4) than any other side.
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Ulster Rugby cruised into the European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a 57-21 win over Harlequins at Twickenham Stoop on Sunday evening.
It was domination from start to finish from the Irish province who proved much too strong for a depleted Harlequins outfit.
Stuart McCloskey ran in the first of eight tries for the visitors, who were soon 10-0 ahead when John Cooney slotted over a simple penalty.
The next two scores were both from powerful driving mauls, with Rob Herring and then Sean Reidy crossing the whitewash.
"Look at the gas on Mike Lowry." 🏃♂️💨
That is just sensational from the @UlsterRugby full-back!
Take a bow 🙇♂️#ChallengeCupRugby pic.twitter.com/URqHuGsYPB
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 4, 2021
Tom Lawday would provide some respite for the hosts with a try of their own but Michael Lowry blitzed the Quins’ defence soon after to leave the visitors ahead by 22 at the break.
Rob Herring grabbed his second of the evening from the back of a driving maul on 55 minutes, before Billy Burns intercepted a stray Quins and ran one in under the posts.
The sides then further traded scores in the final 20 minutes – Jack Kenningham and Jordan Els for Harlequins, Alby Mathewson and Sean Reidy for Ulster – with the try count ending on 11.
Ulster Rugby will play Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens next Saturday (10 April) in the last eight.
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