Goal-kickers do not necessarily win matches, but having one in such a consistent vein of form as Paul Burke certainly helps. The right boot of Harlequins' ultra-reliable No 10 returned 23 more points to steer his side to their first Premiership victory of the season, and deepen the gloom of Wasps, who have not won since the opening weekend.
Burke has 65 points from four starts, including a moderate return by his standards from the 66 draw at Newcastle last week that lifted Harlequins' morale after the disappointment of home defeats by London Irish and Bristol. Yesterday the Harle-quins pack was down to one fit hooker, with Keith Wood away on Ireland duty, yet their appetite for the fray seemed to hold Wasps in thrall for much of this oldest of London derby matches.
In one instance Quins may have overdone the enthusiasm. Joe Worsley, the No 8 who is in England's squad to face Ireland next month, was taken to hospital last night for an operation on a split scrotum. Wasps' director of rugby, Nigel Melville, did not rule out a citing for illegal use of the boot, with the referee, Roy Maybank, confirming afterwards that he had not seen the cause of the second-half injury.
The loss of Worsley Joe Beardshaw will switch from lock to flanker against Stade Français in the Heineken Cup next weekend was just the latest addition to Wasps' back- row nightmares. They already have Lawrence Dallaglio, Paul Volley, Peter Scrivener and Richard Birkett on the injured list, a pile-up reminiscent of Quins' problems in the same department last season.
Wasps coughed up five penalties within range of the posts in the first 25 minutes, and Burke dispatched the lot, high and handsome. Wasps at least had Phil Greening back in harness for the first time since last May. But the dome-headed hooker, who injured knee ligaments almost at the outset of the Lions' tour, looked in need of match practice. Time is not on Wasps' side, with Europe looming, although they will be boosted by the arrival tomorrow of their newly signed All Black lock, Ian Jones.
In light of the early 15-point deficit, Wasps' backs quickly resorted to attacking from deep but, even when Quins were a man short with Dan Luger in the sin-bin, Fraser Waters' 60-metre break came to nothing when the centre's outside pass went to an opponent. Quins preferred to keep it tight, profiting from the intelligent probing of the short side of scrums and mauls by their scrum-half, Scott Bemand, 23 last Friday.
Paul Sampson kicked Wasps' first points after 36 minutes, but Quins responded before half-time with a try by their busy right-wing, Matt Moore, after Luger's surge into the threequarter line and long outside pass. Matthew Leek kicked a 47th minute penalty for Wasps but the door, momentarily ajar, was slammed shut by two more penalties from Burke to put Quins out to 266.
Mike Friday's break from a scrum, supported by the replacement Mark Lock, made a try at the posts for Josh Lewsey with six minutes left. But Quins were not to be rattled, and a popular try by their full-back, Mark Mapletoft, making his first start after more than a year, rounded things off nicely.
As for Wasps, things could, one supposes, be worse. They could be Bath.
Harlequins: M Mapletoft (B Gollings 35-43); M Moore, N Greenstock, C Bell, D Luger; P Burke, S Bemand; J Leonard, J Roddam, A Olver, G Morgan (capt, Gollings 81), S White-Cooper, R Winters, T Diprose (A Codling 74), T Tamarua (A Alesbrook 56).
Wasps: J Lewsey; S Roiser, F Waters (L Scrase 62), M Denney (capt), P Sampson; M Leek, M Friday; C Dowd, P Greening (T Leota 62), W Green (D Molloy 56), J Beardshaw, S Shaw, R Jenkins, J Worsley (M Lock 50), C Allan.
Referee: R Maybank (London).Reuse content