The England coach Stuart Lancaster pitched up at the Stoop for last night's south-west London derby, having just seen Mike Catt apply his thumbprint to a two-year contract as the national side's attacking skills coach – a positive conclusion to a lengthy compensation wrangle with London Irish. Not that England would need an attack specialist if all their games were this one-sided. A monkey could have coached the ultra-direct Harlequins backs to run through a defence as weak as the Exiles' powder-puff version.
Twice in the opening few minutes, there were knife-through-butter breaks from the champions. Twice they crossed for converted tries – George Robson claiming the first, Ugo Monye the second. At the heart of both scores was Nick Evans, the former All Black outside-half who, on this showing, could easily be playing for the All Blacks now, Dan Carter or no Dan Carter. A really good defence would have struggled to keep him under lock and key. London Welsh, so cussed against Leicester's mean machine last weekend, were too brittle for words in the early stages here, and by the time they manned up, the game was gone
They had moments of their own: Tom Arscott launched a one-man assault that covered 40 thrilling metres; Hudson Tonga'uiha, the best player in the Exiles side, punched his formidable weight when he spotted a man-and-ball opportunity in midfield. But as soon as the champions found a little space and some tempo to go with it, they were home free. When Monye crossed for his second try on 24 minutes, firing yet another of the bullets loaded by the master of ballistics in the No 10 shirt, the gap was 18 points and victory was assured.
Lancaster's principle interest probably centred on the Quins hooker Joe Gray, one of the hookers in line to replace the injured Rob Webber in the senior England squad. Gray started brightly enough, and he was on the button with his first line-out throw, too, thereby launching the move that led to Robson's close-range finish three minutes into the contest.
By the time Gray left the field midway through the third quarter, having rather enjoyed his individual battle with the bristling front-row hustler Neil Briggs, his side were 28-3 up, Robson having done a Monye by claiming a second try while the Exiles were a man short in the pack, courtesy of the yellow card shown to the prop Paulica Ion for obstructing Karl Dickson's tap-and-go routine.
Evans, like Gray, was withdrawn early: why put a playmaker of his quality at unnecessary risk when a contest is as dead as Monty Python's parrot? Still, he chipped over one last conversion before departure, following George Lowe's try on 62 minutes – a score preceded by Mike Brown's delicate chip and a late hit on the full-back from Arscott that might, on another day, have left the victim vaporised. Arscott escaped punishment, possibly because the officials felt London Welsh had suffered enough.
In fairness to the Exiles, they were much better – more committed, more organised – in the last 20 minutes than in the first: Mike Denbee, their open-side flanker, put in a major shift and there was the odd bullocking run from Ed Jackson as the final whistle neared. But Arscott saw yellow after another illicit challenge and Quins immediately rubbed it in with a sixth try, claimed by Ben Botica.
Scorers: Harlequins – Tries: Robson 2, Monye 2, Lowe, Botica. Conversions: Evans 5. London Welsh – Penalty: Ross.
Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, G Lowe, J Turner-Hall (M Hopper 71), U Monye; N Evans (B Botica 63), K Dickson (D Care 54); J Marler (D Marfo 64), J Gray (R Buchanan 54), J Johnston (K Sinckler 64), O Kohn (C Matthews 46), G Robson, M Fa'asavalu, C Robshaw (capt), T Guest (N Easter 57).
London Welsh: T Arscott; J Ajuwa, S Parker, H Tonga'uiha (S Jewell 60), P Mackenzie (N Scott 71); G Ross, T Keats (N Runciman 57); F Montanella (T Bristol 53), N Briggs (D George 71), P Ion (A Joly 71), J Mills (capt, K Kulemin 60), M Corker, D Browne (A To'oala 53), M Denbee, E Jackson (Joly 42-53).
Referee: L Pearce (Devon).Reuse content