Contrasting emotions at the full time whistle

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Harlequins won their first Gallagher Premiership title for nine years after Louis Lynagh’s two late tries saw them overcome defending champions Exeter 40-38 after a remarkable Twickenham final.

Quins wing Lynagh, whose father Michael helped Australia win the World Cup with victory over England 30 years ago at the same venue, struck twice during the closing eight minutes of an epic encounter.

It means Quins became the first team since Saracens six years ago to finish fourth after the regular season and be crowned champions. But who shone brightest and who had a game to forget? 

Exeter Chiefs

15. Jack Nowell

Lifted Exeter with just about every touch – a force of nature. His influence waned with a move to the right wing, which may give Rob Baxter food for thought 8

14. Alex Cuthbert

Wholehearted farewell game for Chiefs was ended by injury. He can leave Exeter with his head held high 7

13. Henry Slade

Made crucial tackles on Tyrone Green and André Esterhuizen and grew into the game as a distributor as Exeter appeared likely to pull away 8

12. Ollie Devoto

Swung a pass into touch under pressure from Danny Care, but responded well. A deft kick set up Exeter’s second try and he scored their fourth 8

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11. Tom O’Flaherty

Lively and willing as ever with ball in hand but well marshalled by Harlequins and could not stop Louis Lynagh’s brace down his flank 6

10. Joe Simmonds

Looked to have edged a compelling duel of two fine fly-halves before Smith’s blockbuster finale. Kept the champions calm as captain and even mucked in at the breakdown 9

9. Jack Maunder

Box-kicking was hit-and-miss, sometimes contestable but occasionally failing to give his chasers a chance. Service was lively until Stu Townsend replaced him 7

1. Alec Hepburn

Scored from close range with an opportunistic pick and go among heavier bodies. However, he could not contain Louw’s scrummaging 6

2. Luke Cowan-Dickie

Forced a trademark steal early and carried with typical venom, offloading into the build-up to Devoto’s try. Nasty head injury ended his afternoon 8

Cowan-Dickie's afternoon was ended early with a head injury

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3. Harry Williams

Outmuscled by Marler at the scrum but worked hard in the loose, staying on for 74 minutes of an exhausting encounter 6

4. Jonny Gray

Stretched over for Exeter’s first try and forced a vital counter-rucking turnover. For the second consecutive Premiership decider, Gray stood up to be counted 8

5. Jonny Hill

Bore the brunt of Harlequins’ early penalty try and was sent to the sin bin by Mathew Carley. The Lion-in-waiting influenced the lineout on his lineout 7

6. Jannes Kirsten

Has been a wonderful signing for Chiefs and grafted hard again, carving through from Jack Yeandle’s pass to set up Stuart Hogg at the death 8

7. Richard Capstick

Capstick was quiet and Chiefs missed Dave Ewers and Sam Skinner. The talented, athletic back-rower is too good a player not to return to this stage 6

8. Sam Simmonds

Threatened everywhere despite being targeted by Harlequins, making metres in the 15-metre channels and through traffic – where his 21st try of the Premiership season came from 9

Sam Simmonds was a constant threat

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Replacements

16. Jack Yeandle (on for Cowan-Dickie, 61)

The captain’s pass to help set up Hogg’s try was delicate 6

17. Ben Moon (on for Hepburn, 55)

The veteran was deployed in an attempt to quell Louw 6

18. Marcus Street (on for Williams, 74)

A very brief appearance for the young front-rower N/A

19. Sean Lonsdale (on for Hill, 74)

Too little time to influence the game N/A

20. Don Armand (on for Capstick, 46)

A mobile and tenacious performance from Armand hauled Chiefs back on track 7

21. Stu Townsend (on for Maunder, 53)

The scrum-half scrapped but a knock-on at the base of a breakdown stifled Chiefs’ momentum 6

22. Harvey Skinner (on for Nowell, 79)

Skinner replaced a hobbling Nowell briefly N/A

23. Stuart Hogg (on for Cuthbert, 76)

Travels to South Africa after a curious fortnight in which he was dropped by Exeter for the business end. Did score a try and challenge Harlequins from full-back 7

Harlequins

15. Tyrone Green

Afternoon of brilliant moments, such as two acrobatic overhead takes early on, interspersed with uncertain ones. He is so exciting, though, and will get even better 7

14. Louis Lynagh

One mistake on the touchline before Exeter’s second try. Fantastic otherwise. Tackled Sam Simmonds to set the tone and his two tries sealed a breakthrough year 9

Louis Lynagh dives over to score

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13. Joe Marchant

Clever in defence, shutting down space. Sparky in attack, confounding defenders and moving the ball with poise. Surely a big summer lies ahead with England 9

12. André Esterhuizen

The centre’s return from suspension felt critical. He was a try-scoring focal point. Deemed surplus to South Africa’s requirements, which is worrying for the Lions 9

11. Cadan Murley

Continually dangerous down the Harlequins left and calm on the ball for Esterhuizen’s breakaway try 8

10. Marcus Smith

Teased and troubled Exeter either side of his yellow card for a team offence. Trickery for Lynagh’s first try was the crescendo of his sublime game 9

9. Danny Care

Clearly desperate to add a second Premiership crown to complement 2012, Care was fired-up. It was fitting that the scrum-half kicked into touch to seal it 8

It was quite the send off for the long-serving Danny Care

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1. Joe Marler

Ended a monumental campaign with a special display. Simply inexorable, still charging around after 80 minutes of scrummaging dominance and tenacious, technically excellent defence 10

2. Scott Baldwin

Wales international heads to Worcester after one hell of a send-off. The set piece laid Harlequins’ platform and their hooker was assured 8

3. Wilco Louw

Outmuscled the Chiefs scrum and finished powerfully for Harlequins’ second try, surging past five defenders. Somehow not part of the Springboks squad 9

4. Matt Symons

Mightily industrious on both sides of the ball opposite Exeter’s behemoths, emptying the tank and collapsing with emotion at full-time 9

5. Stephan Lewies

Captain and set-piece general deserves significant credit for his team’s swagger and conviction. Besides one overthrow, the lineout was pristine and Lewies made 14 tackles 8

6. James Chisholm

Promoted to start and was Harlequins’ aggressor from the back row. His breakdown turnover in the second half seemed to turn the tide as well 8

7. Jack Kenningham

A Harlequins fan since childhood, Kenningham was terrifically resourceful and courageous. He tackled himself to a stand-still and punched holes past bigger men when used as a carrier 9

8. Alex Dombrandt

Not as explosive as Sam Simmonds, but such an intelligent operator. Hunted Smith’s shoulder to score before the break and was defensively dogged 8

Replacements

16. Joe Gray (on for Baldwin, 59)

Another of the 2012 crew was busy in his cameo 7

17. Santiago Garcia Botta

Not used N/A

18. Will Collier (on for Louw 59)

A handful of tackles for the replacement tighthead prop 6

19. Dino Lamb (on for Lewies, 59)

Lamb’s energy in the final quarter proved important, although he gave away a penalty for a high tackle 7

20. Tom Lawday (on for Chisholm, 74)

Just five minutes for the former Chief N/A

21. Martin Landajo

Not used N/A

22. Luke Northmore (on for Murley, 59)

Northmore’s introduction maintained balance in Harlequins’ backline with Marchant shifting to the wing 7

23. Ben Tapuai (on for Esterhuizen, 79)

Arrived for the final seconds N/A