Rugby Union / Courage League: Bray capitalises on indiscretion: Bath regain footing on the high ground while Harlequins sew it up with a no-frills pattern

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The Independent Online
Harlequins. . . . . 22

Wasps. . . . . . . .17

THE dimmest schoolboy knows that teams who make daft mistakes deserve to lose matches. Wasps learned this basic lesson the hard way at The Stoop yesterday. Twice they made crass errors and so squandered the points which they needed to stay up with the leaders.

The full-back, Alan Buzza, was the prime wearer of the dunce's cap. With all to play for, the ball trickled back over his line. He had an age to ground it, but somehow managed to fall on the wrong spot. The Harlequins wing, Daren O'Leary, made no such error, galloping up to ground the elusive object for the try that put the result beyond doubt.

The Wasps second row, Richard Kinsey, had learned about mistakes earlier: with his side already awarded a kickable penalty, he decided to trample mindlessly over the Quins pack in view of most of west London, and in particular the referee, who promptly reversed his decision. A chance to keep victory in sight had been thrown away.

Beyond that a string of small mistakes at crucial times allowed Harlequins only their second league win over their London rivals. Final passes went to ground when space beckoned; kicks did not quite make touch. In the end, it was a triumph for method and safety, a victory for Harlequins' solid tackling and discipline.

Wasps came out with a bit more sting in the second half, and seemed the better side for long spells. But then Buzza's blunder knocked the ground from under them.

After that, the gap was simply too wide, no matter how hard they tried to bridge it. Chris Oti had bristled and jostled for much of the game, but he only broke through to cross as the gloom descended. Rob Andrew kicked a penalty in a mad, pressurised scramble for points. It was all far, far too late.

Both London clubs are now left with the sight of Bath and Leicester disappearing into the distance.

Quins played to a clear pattern: keep it tight in the pack, no frills in the backs and keep kicking the ball up and then getting under it. This less-than-exciting tactic paid off steadily in points as the full-back Kent Bray clinically kicked a string of penalties as Wasps transgressed at the resulting mauls.

Bray's kicking was faultless. But there was little else to cheer, no sign of a try in the first half, not much hint of a coherent move among either set of backs.

Harlequins: Try O'Leary; Conversion Bray; Penalties Bray 4; Drop goal Challinor. Wasps: Try Oti; Penalties Andrew 4.

Harlequins: K Bray; D O'Leary, W Carling, G Thompson, J Alexander; P Challinor, R Glenister; J Leonard, B Moore, A Mullins (capt), A Snow, S Dear, M Russell, T Coker, B Richardson.

Wasps: A Buzza (C Wright, 73); P Hopley, F Clough, G Childs, C Oti; R Andrew, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, I Dunston (P Delaney, 43), R Kinsey, S Shortland, M Greenwood, D Ryan (capt), M White.

Referee: J Burtenshaw (London).

(Photograph omitted)