THE HUMBLING of Harlequins has been some time coming. Victory would have lifted them into second place in the Allied Dunbar Premiership. Instead defeat leaves them in the dumps over the festive season, humiliated by a record defeat in this series against their London rivals Wasps, who move up two places to seventh.
Harlequins may have won six out of the last eight meetings between these two sides - including a 53-17 hammering two years ago - but on last night's showing at The Stoop that is an incredible statistic as they were completely out-played, out-thought and out-fought.
By the time they were showing any steel (when Zinzan Brooke was sent on midway through the proceedings to score a try) it was far too late even to spare their blushes.
At no point in the first half did Harlequins look remotely dangerous, except to themselves. All the threat came from Wasps. Their forwards were superb and the back row in particular was magnificent.
There were some breathtaking passages of play, one instance, midway through the half when the ball was recycled at least 10 times, saw the ball going backwards and forwards between forwards and backs as just about every member of the Wasps side displayed prodigious handling skills.
The back row of Lawrence Dallaglio, Peter Scrivener and Joe Worsley were streets ahead of the opposition. And the Centres Mark Denney and Fraser Waters punched big holes through the middle and were always looking to launch the potent wing pairing of Kenny Logan and Josh Lewsey.
The backs had to wait their turn to get on the scoresheet as the No 8 Scrivener opened the scoring in the 11th minute.
The chunky Samoan Trevor Leota stole round the blindside to touchdown before a cool effort from Dallaglio enabled Kenny Logan to find the target.
Injury time saw the departure of Wood after a midfield collision. The scrum-half left clutching his right shoulder. Quins were clutching their heads. It later emerged that Wood had broken a collarbone.
The backs finally had their say after the interval. Unsurprisingly it was Denney who drew first blood for them, sent over by fly-half Alex King after a series of scrums. Denney also scored the final try when he cut inside Brooke. In between Fraser Waters rounded off a neat passage of interplay.
The outrageously gifted Wasps open-side flanker Joe Worsley completed a happy little treble for the superior back row when he scored the sixth try, underlining his credentials for England consideration. The full-back Jon Ufton, who converted the final try, touched down for the seventh after replacement scrum-half Bryan Shelbourne had darted round the blindside at a scrum and the slaughter was complete.
Harlequins: Tries Brooke; Conversion Schuster; Penalties Schuster, Rees; Drop Goal Rees.
Wasps: Tries Scrivener, Leota, Dallaglio, Denney 2, Waters, Worsley, Ufton; Conversions Logan 5, Ufton.
Harlequins: J Schuster; J Keyter, N Greenstock, W Carling (capt), D O'Leary; G Rees (R Liley, 72), H Harries (C Wright, 50); J Leonard, S Mitchell (T Murphy, 50), P Graham (R Mathieson, 76), S White-Cooper, G Morgan, A Leach (S Justice, 76), C Sheasby (Z Brooke, 50), P Sanderson.
Wasps: J Ufton; J Lewsey, F Waters, M Denney (L Scrase, 35-39), K Logan (S Roiser, 79); A King, M Wood (B Shelbourne, 40); D Molloy (A Le Chevalier,76) , T Leota (D Macer, 66), W Green, A Reed, S Shaw (M Weedon, 74), L Dallaglio, P Scrivener, J Worsley.
Referee: B Campsall (Halifax)