Wasps, the two-time European champions who have been losing matches with such depressing regularity just lately that their chances of making the elite Heineken Cup tournament next season are now of "snowball in hell" remoteness, arrived at the home of their age-old London rivals for last night's second-tier Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final in a right old state – low on confidence, short of clout up front and without two of the more dependable members of their line-up, the flanker John Hart and the centre Ben Jacobs, both of whom dropped out before kick-off.
In the opening stages, they almost lost their self-respect into the bargain.
It took the Harlequins loose-forward Maurie Fa'asavalu approximately half a minute to register his destructive intent, making ground through the heaviest traffic despite being clattered by both Wasps props simultaneously. The result? A try for Danny Care. Four minutes later, the Samoan smashed through a few more members of the visiting pack, this time claiming a touchdown for himself. As both these scores were converted by Nick Evans, the home side were in the happy position of rolling along at a point every 20 seconds.
He is some performer, this Fa'asavalu. At the 2003 World Cup in Australia, he played some jaw-dropping rugby. The rugby league fraternity trained their beady eyes on him as a consequence, and he joined St Helens after the tournament. Not until this season did he switch back.
Perhaps it was the prospect of Fa'asavalu running riot for the entire contest that persuaded Wasps to summon the remnants of their competitive spirit and start performing themselves. Joe Simpson, no slouch at scrum-half, began making inroads into the Quins defence, and it was his sprint past Joe Gray in open field that led to a much-needed try for Seb Jewell.
But Wasps had no answer to Evans's accuracy with the boot. While David Walder was missing kicks, the New Zealander was hitting the spot with penalties from a variety of ranges. Two in first-half stoppage time gave Quins a comfortable cushion at the break; two more on 47 and 63 minutes allowed them to absorb Tom Lindsay's defiant try at the sticks midway through the third quarter.
At the last knockings, Wasps threw themselves at it one last time, Riki Flutey and Mark van Gisbergen combining handily down the left to manufacture an overlap try for Richard Haughton in the opposite corner. Evans was having none of it, though. Aware that another three-pointer would keep his side out of range, he dropped the sweetest of goals from distance.
Scorers: Harlequins: Tries Care, Fa'asavalu; Conversions Evans 2; Penalties Evans 5; Drop goal Evans. Wasps: Tries Jewell, Lindsay, Haughton; Conversions Walder 2; Drop goal Walder.
Harlequins: M Brown; G Camacho, G Lowe, J Turner-Hall, U Monye; N Evans, D Care; C Jones, J Gray (C Brooker 48-70), J Andress (M Lambert 53), O Kohn (T Vallejos 59), G Robson (P Browne 85), M Fa'asavalu, W Skinner, N Easter (capt).
Wasps: M Van Gisbergen; R Haughton, S Jewell, R Flutey, D Lemi (C Wade 23); D Walder, J Simpson; T Payne, R Webber (T Lindsay 37), B Broster (S Taulafo 63), S Shaw (capt), J Launchbury, D Ward-Smith, S Betsen (S Jones 70), A Powell.
Referee: C Berdos (France).Reuse content