Harlequins were crowned English club champions for the first time on Saturday when they defeated Leicester 30-23 at Twickenham in the Premiership final.
Despite leading for most of the match, there were some nervy final minutes for Quins and their fans as Leicester looked for a try and conversion that would take the match into extra time. However, the Quins’ powerful scrum held their ground to help seal a historic victory.
The atmosphere was electric inside Twickenham with over 80,000 supporters in attendance and a large contingent of Harlequins fans whose home ground – the Twickenham Stoop – is just around the corner.
However, thousands of Leicester supporters made the pilgrimage and were in fine voice for the occasion.
While it was a strong all-round performance from the team that finished top of the Premiership, skipper Chris Robshaw, who will also lead England into battle in South Africa next month, was an inspirational figure grabbing a try.
Robshaw was named man of the match in a thrilling contest where Leicester were going for their 11th English crown since winning the first one back in 1988.
But it was Quins day to crack open the champagne with the biggest triumph in their 146-year history.
Manu Tuilagi took just seconds to announce his intention to put himself about with a ferocious tackle on Danny Care which saw the England centre throw his rival to the ground in almost spear-tackle style.
Referee Wayne Barnes ruled it was an illegal tackle but not a dangerous one.
He awarded Quins a penalty which Evans kicked while Tuilagi avoided punishment apart from a lecture from Barnes.
Evans struck the outside of a post with his next penalty attempt – a difficult one from near the right-hand touchline after illegal Tigers’ hand in a ruck.
But the Quins’ fans were on their feet as Conor O’Shea’s men turned up more heat on the Tigers defence with the ball finally switched into the grateful hands of Williams.
The wing, who endured the Bloodgate controversy which resulted in the departure of the then Quins boss Dean Richards, raced over in the right-hand corner unchallenged.
Evans hit an upright again with his conversion but the London outfit were 8-0 ahead and looking strong.
Tigers managed to regain their composure and George Ford’s boot reduced the gap with a penalty from in front of the posts. It was brief respite as another Evans’ kick gave the underdogs an 11-3 advantage.
Ford, 19, relishing the chance to prove himself on England’s forthcoming tour to South Africa, missed his second penalty but made an easier third kick as Tigers began to bare their claws with the odd hefty hit from Alesana Tuilagi on Mike Brown.
Leicester then struck with venom, stealing a line-out from inside their own half with prop Dan Cole feeding Steve Mafi, and the big Tongan-born flanker raced 40 metres unchallenged with the Quins defence absent, and touched down for Ford’s conversion to put Tigers’ noses in front for the first time.
Tigers lost No8 Thomas Waldrom to the sin bin for deliberate foul play at a ruck and Evans’ third penalty gave Quins a 14-13 half-time lead.
Evans picked up where he left off with two more penalties inside the opening 10 minutes after the break.
Waldron returned to the fray but Quins produced another decisive move resulting in their second try. The ball was switched left and then right with the impressive Care in the thick of things once more.
It fell to Robshaw 10 metres out and the England captain and flanker used his body power to force his way over with Evans converting for a commanding lead.
He added another penalty and Quins, with a 17-point lead with just 14 minutes remaining looked home and hosed.
But Tigers bounced back with Anthony Allen bursting through a gaping Quins defence to give Tigers some hope with a try which Ford converted.
A Ford penalty left Tigers just a converted try away from sending the game into extra time, but Quins stubbornly hung on for victory.
Few would begrudge Harlequins their first victory after a phenomenal and consistent season in which they became a team to rival the more established sides.