A late try from hooker Sam Riley denied Glasgow Warriors a famous comeback win as Franco Smith’s side were knocked out of the Investec Champions Cup 28-24 in dramatic fashion at The Stoop.  

The visitors raced into an early lead when Scott Cummings crashed over inside five minutes, but the hosts dominated for large spells thereafter and hit back when Andre Esterhuizen gathered a Marcus Smith cross-kick to score.  

The England fly-half landed the touchline conversion, then danced over for a score of his own five minutes from the break, taking advantage of a yellow card to Sione Tuipulotu. A third try, scored by Cadan Murley, put Harlequins seemingly in command.  

A terrific comeback sparked into life 10 minutes into the second half. A much-improved Glasgow enjoyed more possession and territory and got their reward with two tries in as many minutes. First Johnny Matthews drove over from a 5m lineout, before George Horne – who contributed 14 points - got on the end of a terrific move.

But Riley's late score from a dominant maul saw Harlequins advance into the last eight.  

Here are five things we learned on a dramatic night at The Stoop.  

Take every opportunity of points

Both of these teams are rightly considered among the premier entertainers in this competition, but so often these matches come down to who takes more of their chances.

Quins had two driving lineouts 5m from Glasgow’s line within the first quarter of an hour that the visitors’ repelled, while in a similar position, Glasgow were penalised for obstruction.  

Scotland Rugby News: Andre Esterhuizen scores for HarlequinsAndre Esterhuizen scores for Harlequins (Image: PA)

Both teams opted to turn down straightforward kicks at goal in favour of going to the corner – they both have impressive records of scoring from that area – but in knockout rugby there has to be a place for applying scoreboard pressure. 

Glasgow turned down two kickable penalties of their own inside the final 12 minutes. They wouldn’t have made the game safe, but they would have wound down the clock. 

The importance of discipline evident

The visitors’ attacking forays were brief in the opening 40 minutes largely because whenever they got into a promising position, they either coughed up possession or conceded a penalty. In the first half alone, referee Tual Trainini penalised Franco Smith’s side on a dozen occasions, to the hosts two concessions – that is simply far too many.  

Some of Glasgow’s indiscipline came from Quins pressure, but too many were for needless offences. Losing Tuipulotu to the sin bin was a huge blow and Danny Wilson’s current team made his former one pay with two tries before the break to take control of the contest at 21-7. 

Scotland Rugby News: Sione Tuipulotu played well on his return despite a first half yellow cardSione Tuipulotu played well on his return despite a first half yellow card (Image: PA)

The second half was a different story altogether. Glasgow didn’t give away a single penalty in the third quarter as they got themselves back into the game. It was the hosts on the back foot, infringing five times in a row and losing Joe Marler to a yellow card on the hour.  

Outstanding international class  

Much of Glasgow’s success this season has been built around some of Franco Smith’s squad rotation – giving the likes of Max Williamson and Ally Miller opportunities they might not have expected at the start of the campaign.

Williamson, the 21-year-old lock, was terrific tonight, but when they had their backs to the walls at 21-7, Glasgow’s international contingent stood up.  

Jack Dempsey carried tirelessly as ever, George Horne was excellent off the kicking tee and finished his try in trademark fashion.

Kyle Steyn was excellent too, playing a key role in Horne’s try and making some important defensive interventions. The yellow card was the only downside to an impressive return for Sione Tuipulotu.  

Another nearly moment for Glasgow 

Glasgow have never won a knockout match in the Champions Cup, a run that was within four minutes of ending this evening before Riley’s late try. The Warriors were well beaten in their quarter-final meetings with Saracens in 2017 and 2019 despite that team containing Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and a host of their international colleagues.  

This team is similarly stacked with Scotland caps and Glasgow were right in this contest. They would have relished a shot at the last eight, but again their star-studded squad must sit and watch from afar as Europe’s elite battle it out.  

Impact from the bench 

Franco Smith’s policy of picking six forwards and only two backs on the bench is a risky one, and his replacements weren’t able to add the desired impact in the latter stages here. Having used Jamie Dobie early on for Kyle Rowe, the Glasgow boss unloaded six replacements at once just as they had regained the lead.  

But it was the Quins bench that added the desired impact late on, with Riley the man to score the match-winning try.  

Harlequins: T Green, L Lynagh, O Beard, A Esterhuizen, C Murley, M Smith, D Care; F Baxter (Marler 40), J Walker (Riley 69), W Collier (Lewis 58), I Herbst (Launchbury 54), G Hammond (Trenholm 65), S Lewies (captain) (Lawday 69-73), W Evans, A Dombrandt 

Tries: Esterhuizen (24), Smith (33), Murley (40), Riley (76) 

Conversions: Smith (25, 34, 40, 77) 

Yellow card: Marler (61) 

Glasgow Warriors: J McKay, K Steyn (captain), S McDowall, S Tuipulotu, K Rowe (Dobie 21), T Jordan (Weir 68), G Horne; N McBeth (Kebble 60), J Matthews (Hiddleston 60), Z Fagerson (Sordoni 60), M Williamson (Manjezi 60), S Cummings, M Fagerson (Venter 60), R Darge, J Dempsey 

Tries: Cummings (3), Matthews (50), Horne (52) 

Conversions: Horne (4, 51, 54) 

Penalty: Horne (59) 

Yellow cards: Tuipulotu (33) 

Referee: Tual Trainini 

Player of the Match: Marcus Smith