Bordeaux-Begles v Harlequins: Five takeaways from the Champions Cup quarter-final as ‘brave and daring’ Quins win a ‘match for the ages’

James While
Tyrone Green Harlequins Premiership 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Harlequins full-back Tyrone Green.

Following Harlequins’ thrilling 42-41 triumph over Bordeaux-Begles in their Investec Champions quarter-final clash, here are five takeaways from the game at Stade Chaban-Delmas.

The top line

Harlequins and Bordeaux-Begles produced one of the finest Champions Cup quarter-finals in recent memory as Quins move forward into the EPCR semi-finals for the first time in their career. It’s impossible to underestimate this showing – it was brave, daring and even impudent, in a match for the ages.

The lead changed hands four times alone in the second half but as Quins tired in the searing heat, so UBB, courtesy of an immense impact from their bench, almost managed to mount an incredible comeback to see off a brilliant attacking display from a thrilling and fearless Harlequins, who must rank this win as one of their finest achievements.

With tries for Quins from Will Porter (2), Will Evans, Alex Dombrandt and player of the match Tyrone Green, the visitors may wish to thank Maxime Lucu for missing a crucial kick close to the posts to take UBB a point clear, but the ball drifted wide and Quins closed out a memorable win with a brilliant restart exit that saw Bordeaux pinned in their half for the last two minutes of the game.

It was chaotically brilliant and an underdog win that was thoroughly deserved.


Harlequins described their approach before this match as an opportunity to swing the bat and, on a day simply made for stroke play their top order simply made hay in a manner that would have put smiles on the faces of likes of Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow.

The first half was full of dazzling shots with the Quins middle order, or in rugby terms, the back-row, having an absolute field day as their mobility shone in the sun. Chandler Cunningham-South caused chaos in the Bordeaux defence with some thundering carries, often taking two or three men with him and changing the focus of the UBB primary line.

Dombrandt loves a fast track and his running was everywhere, providing Porter with a brilliant offload to thunder over the posts. But amid the attacking ambition, Quins openside Evans added Joe Root style solidity, making a number of brilliant turnovers, none more impressive than his India-rubber effort in the face of a clattering clear out and counter ruck from Pete Samu. It was absolutely fitting that Evans closed the first half with a brilliant short range touchdown after powerful work from the Quins tight five in a driving maul.

It was a memorable day for that brilliant back-row and, despite the pre-match chat about the Englishmen struggling in the heat of France, their greater mobility and athleticism was the difference, especially in those key breakdown exchanges.

Harlequins win 83-point thriller at Bordeaux-Begles in history-making Champions Cup win

Second-half woes

Once again Quins’ propensity to come out in the second half less than firing cost them dearly. However, it took a moment of magnificence from Nicolas Depoortere to collect a pass from Ugo Boniface off his bootlaces to break the Quins line, as the French international centre gatherer brilliantly to arc into the corner.

With Lucu moving to 10 as UBB’s playmaker, the hosts unloaded an impressive and cap filled bench, Quins were lucky not to concede a second try in two minutes but that man Porter rose to the occasion once more as he held Bordeaux up on the line in a last gasp defensive attempt.

Lucu’s speed and intellect simply changed the dynamic of his team’s attack, getting width and pace into a backline that looked shackled in the first half, whilst up front, Guido Petti’s impact around the breakdown was absolutely crucial.

With the visitors really tiring in the Atlantic Coast heat, Quins opted for a long kick strategy, something that offered Bordeaux the possession they needed (some 68% in the second period) against a fatiguing defensive line, something that their coaches may rue when reviewing the match. With Lucu exerting pressure through his exquisite kicking game, the errors started to take their toll as knock-ons, missed tackles and breakdown howlers started to creep into the weary Quins game, but the visitors held on, trading tries at the end, but always managing to maintain that crucial one point advantage.

Medium pacers

For all of the early scoring spree by the Quins top order, it was the big men bowling the heavy ball that really gave the visitors their forward momentum. Fin Baxter, up against one of the best tightheads in the world in Ben Tameifuna, added to his growing reputation as he had an absolute field day at scrum time, combining with Will Collier to simply demolish a scrum that was some 40kg lighter than their opponents. With Irne Herbst huge in carry and crash, the Quins tight five were responsible for two memorable scores, the second a key one in terms of the course of the second half and delivered by Dombrandt.

But as those big forwards tired, so UBB started to pick them off and the confusion between Jack Walker and Baxter down the short side enabled Louis Bielle-Biarrey to scoot over for another brilliant piece of finishing as the match changed direction once more at the start of the last quarter.

Quins tried hard to stay the course, but a cruel bounce poorly fielded by Louis Lynagh off another Bielle-Biarrey kick and gather took Bordeaux to a lead courtesy of the brilliant Romain Buros – giving the hosts a lead that they tried to close off – but a magnificent effort from the visiting Londoners saw them pull off yet another come back, as they attacked brilliantly through Lynagh to send Green over for the crucial score.

Missing men

With Danny Care and Joe Marler missing for Quins, compounded by Joe Launchbury pulling up with a hamstring issue before kick off and Matthieu Jalibert and Damian Penaud absent from the Bordeaux line-up, you might say that the injury list cancelled itself out.

Certainly you might argue that a fresh Marler after 50 minutes would have made a huge difference but the men that replaced the injured Quins, Porter and Baxter, both put in performances that will rank amongst the best of their careers.

For UBB, 10 was an issue as Mateo Garcia struggled to get his backline in the game despite the work of Depoortere and Yoram Moefana in midfield. It took the Lucu switch to 10 to get the hosts back into the match, but it was all too little too late and Yannick Bru might well rue not starting the versatile French half-back at fly-half from the off.

READ MORE: Bordeaux player ratings: Front-row bullied as Romain Buros’ ‘blockbuster’ in vain in Champions Cup epic