Heineken Cup Quarter Final Prediction: Harlequins v Munster

This Sunday, Harlequins look to establish themselves as a European heavyweight when they take on Munster, a side whose European pedigree is well-known, in the Heineken Cup Quarter Finals. Neither side comes to the Twickenham Stoop in a great vein of form, Harlequins having lost three of their last five games, with those two wins both coming in the LV Cup, and Munster having lost their last three away games, including blowout losses to both Glasgow Warriors and Benetton Treviso. If Harlequins can triumph on Sunday, it will be the first time they have been beyond the Quarter Final stage of Europe’s premiere club rugby competition.


If Harlequins can at gain parity at the set-piece and breakdown, and establish their expansive playing style, there are few teams who can live with them. That being said, gaining parity with the Munster pack is no easy task, and players such as James Johnston, George Robson and Chris Robshaw will need to be at their best.

If the Quins forwards are not on the back foot throughout the game, Danny Care will be able to provide good service to Nick Evans, and the former All-Black can spark a back line which should have an advantage over Munster’s. Evans will look to get over a disappointing few weeks for Harlequins, and they will need his usually unerring accuracy with the boot, not just to score points, but also to ensure that the home side are playing the game in the right areas of the pitch.

Player to watch – Mike Brown

There are few better counter-attackers in the Northern Hemisphere than Brown, and given the likelihood that Munster will bombard Harlequins with high balls, his abilities could be instrumental in deciding the game’s victor. Equally, Brown’s elusive running style can often see him isolated, and Harlequins’ back row will need to ensure they support him, otherwise he could provide Munster with a means to improving their field position, or worse, easy shots at goal.


The visitors do come into the game with an enviable accolade – no other side has won more away Quarter Finals in the history of the competition than the Irish province. That success was largely built upon the physicality of their forwards and an almost incomparable set-piece, two areas of their game which they will need to be at their best if they are to come away from the Twickenham Stoop with the win.

The second-row pairing of Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan should prove vital to these goals, and their Heineken Cup experience – 153 appearances between them – will be invaluable to Munster’s hopes. Speaking of Heineken Cup experience, Ronan O’Gara, the competition’s record points scorer, will also look to punish Harlequins if his side can gain an advantage in the forwards, whether it be keeping the scoreboard ticking over with his boot, or spreading the ball out wide to the likes of Doug Howlett and Casey Laulala.

Player to watch – BJ Botha

Botha won’t set the game ablaze with barnstorming runs, but he is one of the best tighthead props playing in the Northern Hemisphere, and his battle with Joe Marler in the scrum could prove pivotal to the game. Marler came in for criticism for his performances during the Six Nations, and those critics have not let up, claiming he is ‘undersized’ to be an elite-level prop, and could be exposed by Botha on Sunday. If Botha can help Munster gain the upper hand at the scrum, it could lay the foundations for a performance reminiscent of the Munster of old.


Ultimately, as it is so often, the team which establishes dominance at the set piece will most likely go on to win the game. With both teams on a relatively poor run of form, the experience of the likes of O’Connell and O’Callaghan could be invaluable in Munster’s ability to rise to the occasion, as they have so often done in the past. Harlequins’ home advantage should not be forgotten however, and their youthful side, whilst respectful of Munster’s pedigree, will not fear them.

Expect the game to go down to the wire. Munster by three.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

14 thoughts on “Heineken Cup Quarter Final Prediction: Harlequins v Munster

  1. Surprised by your predicition actually, though I am a munster follower.Munster seem to be in a bit of a spin just now with possibly too many hopes pinned on O’Connell and ROG off the boil. Howlett’s availability is important. Conor OShea & Quinns will be clinical and I think will do enough to win it.

  2. Any advantage gained by Botha could well be negated by James Johnston on the other side. He has got better and better and took Paul James and Gethin Jenkins to the cleaners when Wales played Samoa

    Also to be remembered is that Quins have beaten Munster in Thomond Park before, so playing them at home will hold no terrors for them

  3. Quins last outing was a loss on a 5 day turnaround, they started the game playing very well. I don’t think they are horribly out of form, not vintage granted, but it’s not like they have just had 50 points put on them.

    Scrum contest should be good, I don’t think Marler is a bad prop but he has suffered from being a small prop in a small tight 5. The England front row are only just over a 17 stone a man average, with a rangy athlete and a pup (albeit a big pup) pushing behind they were out muscled as a unit, I don’t think all the issues sit with Marler. If it’s a Kohn powered Johnston then that’s as good a right hand side of s scrum as you’ll find anywhere.

    I’ll be very disappointed if Quins lose this one. Quins by 5

  4. Very surprised by your prediction. I would think Quins by 7. Munster are no longer a great side; and Quins, whilst off the boil, are a very strong side.

  5. I’ve got Quins by 8 on SuperBru…I think they’ll do it. It’s the game I’m most looking forward to this weekend!

  6. Gotta agree with these guys, I just don’t see Munster eking out a win here. Happy to be wrong though!

    If anything I think Ulster are the only team with any chance of winning away this weekend.

  7. It will be tight especially after Harlequins three defeats in a row. (Even one against Exeter!) But it’ll be quins by five.

  8. If Quins can play there own widespread, flowing game and unleash Tom Casson and Mike Brown with the fantastic running lines (Tom Cassons try vs Sale in the LV cup final was a great example) then Quins will win. Munster seem to be relying too much on their forwards but Ronan O’Gara will put a lot of pressure on Mike Brown at the back with tacticle kicking but if Brown can deal with it then his counter attack will take them apart- Quins by 5.

  9. very good predition Max ,when just about everybody was writing off Munster
    but who could have seen that performance coming from POC just back injury
    his seventh game in eigtheen months but for me it was the munster back row
    who where so aggressive at the breakdown that won the day for them.

    1. POC probably just booked himself a lions ticket. and o’mahony didn’t do his chances any harm either!

      quins just seemed to lack the composure once their backs went against the wall.

      i am sure irish fans will ask where that O’Gara was during the 6Ns.

  10. Well. Quins forwards went MIA

    A mate at the game commented as they ran out that Quins looked knackered. They certainly played like it

    Munster ruled the line out thru the superb POC and owned the breakdown by throwing players in and blasting the one or two quins players off the ball.

    Why do these teams find it so hard to understand that it doesn’t matter whether you have an ‘out and out’ seven or even Richie Mccaw – if you put the numbers in at the breakdown and attack it aggressively, not only will you generate quick ball for your team but you will disrupt or steal the opposition ball.

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