Harlequins missing Marcus Smith as Premiership champions fall to London Irish

Harlequins fully felt the absence of England stars Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt as they fell 22-19 at home to London Irish in what proved a superb contest on Saturday.

Premiership action resumed with the reigning champions missing a couple of their most valuable assets, though loosehead prop Joe Marler was back despite his own involvement in England's autumn series.

Those absences didn't prevent Quins from producing their usual champagne rugby at times, enough for 20-year-old Oscar Beard to score his first senior club tries (two) in only his third Premiership appearance.

That was in addition to Luke Northmore's impressive score, but it was ultimately London Irish who secured the spoils following tries from Agustin Creevy, Rob Simmons and super substitute Ben White.

Paddy Jackson's penalty put the guests on the board first, but first-half touchdowns from Beard and Northmore ensured a 14-10 lead at the break despite Creevy's push over from a short-range line-out maul.

Tommy Allan will have come into this fixture hoping to prove his credentials while first choice Smith is rested following the autumn internationals, only for his afternoon to end prematurely.

The Italy fly-half left just prior to half-time with his arm in a sling after seemingly injuring his shoulder in contact, with third-string Will Edwards coming on (and under pressure to remain fit).

London Irish struck first after the restart and put Simmons in on the wing of all places, his 6'7" frame proving the perfect barrier to withstand Harlequins' defence.

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The Stoop then held its breath when a head collision left try-scorer Northmore looking rattled around the 55-minute mark, though the player was thankfully able to leave the pitch unaided and was replaced by Huw Jones.

Exiles scrum-half White came on for veteran Nic Phipps, though that change ended more fortuitously as the replacement soared over within minutes of entering the fray.

Tom Lawday delivered a sensational pass out the back door to put Beard over for his second shortly after, though Edwards' missed conversion kept the scores at 22-19 with a quarter of an hour to go.

Tensions took over as that proved to be the last of the points scored on a frosty evening in southwest London, particularly given the back-and-forth nature of the game until then.

A losing bonus point at home is still enough to see Quins temporarily move above Saracens into second, but Mark McCall's men will have a chance to gain key ground at home to Sale Sharks on Sunday.

A second win of the Premiership campaign lifts London Irish two places up to seventh, meanwhile, though Newcastle Falcons could move back ahead if they beat Worcester Warriors later on Saturday.

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