Rugby Union: Trial by fury for Quins

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The Independent Online
Harlequins. .26

Wasps. . . . 57

WASPS notched up a remarkable half-century against shell- shocked Harlequins, sending a message to the rest of the Courage League that their potent brand of 15-man rugby will be hard to stop this season.

Against Gloucester last weekend they had scored six tries in the second half; this time they went one better, racking up seven after the interval against a Harlequins side who had been nine points up at half-time but were simply run off their feet by the end.

The Wasps back row of Dean Ryan, Chris Wilkins and Lawrence Dallaglio were outstanding while the backs Damian Hopley and Simon Hunter cut great holes in the Quins defence to set up a seemingly endless series of scoring opportunities. But it is invidious to single out individuals. Every one of these swarming Wasps plays total rugby under the inspired guidance of coach Rob Smith.

Harlequins had got off to the ideal start, Paul Challinor kicking a penalty within a minute, but five minutes later Wasps went ahead with a try in the right corner by Graham Childs, brilliantly converted by Rob Andrew.

Harlequins took back the lead after 11 minutes with a try from what was more of a running than a rolling maul, finished off by new skipper Brian Moore. Challinor failed with the conversion but was allowed to restart the game with a penalty from the centre, the referee punishing the giant Canadian lock Norman Hadley for throwing a punch at Australian international Troy Coker.

Wasps were let back into the game by a dreadful error from Gavin Thompson as the Quins tried to run the ball from their own half after Andrew had failed to find touch. Thompson dropped a simple pass, Wasps were instantly all over him and the powerful Hunter was unstoppable from 20 metres out.

Challinor cut the lead to one point with a penalty from under the posts, after which Wasps enjoyed a purple patch with a spell of running rugby that was liable to leave the spectators breathless, never mind the players. Indeed two promising moves were halted not by the Quins but by eccentric refereeing decisions including the award of a penalty to Harlequins after what looked suspiciously like a deliberate knock- on by Moore with Wasps in a good position.

But for all their pressure Wasps could not add to their tally and against the run of play Challinor kicked his third penalty to put Quins back in front, a lead surprisingly increased when Challinor ran round behind the posts for a try which he himself converted.

Unlucky to be adrift at half- time, Wasps swiftly set about reducing the deficit. Hunter scored his second try with another burst down the left wing, again superbly converted by Andrew, who then took Wasps ahead with a long penalty.

Wasps were still throwing the ball around as if it was a pre-season friendly. Hopley at last scored the try his powerful running had deserved, Dallaglio, who seemed to be everywhere, grabbed the ball at a line-out and dropped over for a try, and not to be outdone his fellow flanker Wilkins did the same a couple of minutes later.

Ryan made it a back row treble with a try on the left after Hopley and Childs had destroyed the Quins' midfield and Nick Greenstock helped himself to a couple of tries.

Harlequins: R Glenister; D O'Leary, W Carling, P Mensah, G Thompson; P Challiner, R Kitchin; J Leonard, B Moore (capt), A Mullins, A Snow, B Davison, T Coker, M Pepper, C Sheasby.

Wasps: J Ufton; S Hunter, G Childs, D Hopley, N Greenstock; R Andrew, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, N Hadley, L Dallaglio, C Wilkins, D Ryan (capt).

Referee: M Bayliss (Gloucester).

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