Quins show fierce bite

Rugby Union: Harlequins 75 Gloucester 19
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The Independent Online
Will Carling's ambition to finish his career at stand-off half was given a great kick start in Harlequins' embarrassingly easy victory over an uninspired, second-rate Gloucester side. Although playing in the centre Carling, the former England captain, was given the kicking duties - an onerous task thanks to the inadequacies of the opposition - ahead of the preferred fly-half Paul Challinor.

Carling did not let them down, converting seven of the 11 tries - four of them from flying wing Daren O'Leary - which rampant Harlequins were able to score in the time available. He finished with 20 points. Not so Gloucester. This was the second- biggest margin of defeat in their history, bettered only by Canterbury from New Zealand two years ago, and it was the most points they have ever conceded.

Richard Hill, Gloucester's director of coaching, is continuing with the squad-orientated policy that he instigated towards the end of last season. This effectively means that for matches where it is felt Gloucester would have lost anyway - when the big guns will be looking not simply for victory, but huge margins as well - they field a second-choice First XV. The best, presumably, will be saved for games where the balance is tilted more in favour of the Cherry and Whites.

But any more results like this one at the Stoop and questions may be asked about the Gloucester approach, provided Twickenham has the time to monitor matters on the field with all the shenanigans going on off it.

By the time they got on to the scoresheet Quins had galloped into a 25- point lead. There were a couple of retaliatory scores and as they warmed up Gloucester did start to run the ball and look a little more menacing. But uncertain handling let them down and the defence was but paper to the cutting edge of Harlequins' sharp backs, notably O'Leary.

But others had their moments of glory as well. The Gallic imports, the Laurents Benezech and Cabannes, both scored second half tries and although he did not get into the act Ireland hooker Keith Wood will be a valuable asset in the loose. He popped up everywhere, frequently restoring momentum to moves when they threatened to peter out. Judging either side on this game would be foolish, but Harlequins have bite from front to back and they look as if they want to get their teeth into the Courage Championship - for as long as it lasts that is.

Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary (S Pilgrim, 78min), W Carling, P Mensah, S Bromley; P Challinor, R Kitchin; J Leonard (capt), K Wood, L Benezech, A Snow, G Llewellyn, B Davison (I Pickup, 68min), G Allison, L Cabannes.

Gloucester: P Hart; M Lloyd, D Caskie, L Osborne, D Timmington; M Kimber, C Mulraine; A Powles, J Hawker, P Vickery, R Ward, D Sims (capt), R York, S Devereux (S Edwards, 45-54min), I Smith.

Referee: J Pearson (Durham)

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