England duty may beckon for Quins' quality quartet
Wasps 16 Harlequins 22
Whoever is eventually given the task of coaching England in the Six Nations Championship should avoid jumping aboard the bandwagon of Quins' 14 wins and no defeats this season just for the sake of it, but even so the likes of Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown, Joe Marler and Danny Care (who was injured for the World Cup) are powerful contenders for selection.
Having built a 16-point lead with tries by Matt Hopper, Brown (a beauty of a chip and chase after Robshaw's smart offload) and Luke Wallace, the multicoloured ones hung on during a strong final quarter from Wasps and are still nine points clear at the top of the Premiership.
Next up for Quins are back-to-back Heineken Cup matches against Toulouse, so Hopper's alert work in attack and defence was heartening given that his fellow centres Jordan Turner-Hall and George Lowe are already crocked and out of the meetings with the French aristos.
Nick Easter will be fit to return for the first meeting with Toulouse at the Stoop on Friday evening but yesterday Robshaw, normally a flanker, wore the No 8 – and when the captain was not helping force umpteen turnovers, he was making an athletic catch from a box kick. "Robbo will do anything for the team," said Quins' director of rugby, Conor O'Shea. "People like [flanker] Luke Wallace are in his slipstream and learning what work-rate is all about."
O'Shea, not for the first time, also said he was "sick to death" of being asked about Easter's "There's £35,000 down the toilet" remark that emerged from the leaked comments made anonymously by England players after the World Cup. "If he said it, he was probably just trying to break the mood," said O'Shea. "Nick has been fantastic for us, one game with Exeter apart, since the World Cup. The Stoop will be packed on Friday and it'll be electric."
Wasps, in ninth, didn't know whether to laugh or cry at their bonus point here. Four Test forwards have retired or departed since the summer – Steve Thompson the most recent, confirming his final succumbing to a neck problem on Saturday – yet the home pack had Quins struggling in a series of scrums in the 22 on the half- hour. The position was wasted when Joe Simpson's put-in was mis-heeled by Rob Webber – the team-mates exchanged angry words – and Quins escaped to the break 7-6 up. Hopper had scored after four minutes when Marler rattled into the 22 from Robshaw's inside pass, while Nick Robinson kicked two penalties for Wasps.
The third quarter belonged to Quins. Nick Evans' penalty made it 10-6 then Brown and Wallace went over, and Evans kicked one conversion. Robinson had greater cause to regret his kicking: there was a penalty that hit a post after 18 minutes from short range, and the failure to convert either of the late tries.
Those tries roused a home crowd that for the financially challenged Wasps was worryingly well below 7,000. Hugo Southwell exploited a one-man advantage with Hopper in the sin-bin to score in the left-hand corner in the 64th minute. If that made for a tricky kick for Robinson he was much further in when hitting the post again, after Tom Varndell had skated through with a nice wraparound move off a line-out that foxed the Quins centres just after Hopper had come back on.
Wasps H Southwell; T Varndell, D Waldouck, R Flutey, C Wade; N Robinson, J Simpson; T Payne (Z Taulafo, 58), R Webber (T Lindsay, 68), B Broster (J Castex, 68), E O'Donoghue, M Wentzel, R Birkett (S Jones 58), M Everard, J Hart (capt).
Harlequins M Brown; S Stegmann, M Hopper (B Urdapilleta, 75), T Casson, S Smith (U Monye, 46); N Evans, D Care; J Marler (M Lambert 70), J Gray (C Brooker, 58), J Johnston, T Vallejos, C Matthews, M Fa'asavalu (W Skinner, 58), L Wallace, C Robshaw (capt).
Referee D Richards (Berkshire).
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