Harlequins revel in their superiority

Leicester Tigers 9 Harlequins 22: Robshaw sets the tone as Premierhsip leaders swagger to victory

welford road

Early days in the season but, blimey, what a chastening early evening this was for Leicester. Last year's top try scorers went a second match in a row without managing one and the team who beat them to the title in the Twickenham final in May made it four wins out of four in the new campaign. Confidence is radiating through Harlequins, from the captain Chris Robshaw outwards, and his John Wayne gait epitomised a collective swagger that left the Welford Road crowd mumbling in grudging appreciation.

Eight members of the England squad started the match in front of the national head coach, Stuart Lancaster, and his forwards assistant,Graham Rowntree, though they had to wait for Quins' prop Joe Marler to go head to a newly shaved head – Marler having recently de-Mohawked himself – with Leicester's Dan Cole, who was on the bench.

Not that there was fun lacking from the scrum. A couple of early collapses earned penalties for Harlequins – Nick Evans kicked one of them to equalise Toby Flood's sixth- minute effort – and there was one in return for Flood to make it 6-3. So it went at the scrum – tit for tat almost – throughout.

The line-out was a different story. It was one of woe for Tigers, though their director of rugby, Richard Cockerill, complained afterwards that two crucial drives in the second half were pulled down without a yellow card against Harlequins. But even Cockerill conceded Quins "played a good game". True, and then some.

The first and only try came at a cost to the scorer, Tom Williams, who pulled a muscle as he ran under the posts and had to go off. Two more Quins backs – Jordan Turner-Hall and Ross Chisholm – followed him later. But the try's execution was more or less foot (and hand) perfect. Joe Gray, the Harlequins hooker vying with Leicester's Tom Youngs to assume the England squad vacancy left by the injured Rob Webber, hit George Robson at the top of a line-out and Quins rattled through their now trademark quick offloads as they moved through several phases. Evans's pass out of the tackle on the 22 and Robson's equally adroit offload sent Williams sprinting, then limping, through. Evans converted and when Danny Care, Quins' England scrum-half, arrowed a dropped goal over after 30 minutes, the champions led 13-6.

Flood pushed a kick wide from another scrum penalty, and though the Leicester fly-half is at the front of the queue for England's No 10 jersey, his line-kicking was off beam too in the first half and his inside centre, Anthony Allen, looked more adept at making the incisive plays. To be fair this "second five-eighth" approach is the way Leicester have long liked it. Overall, though, it remains a failing of many Premiership backlines that overlaps go begging. Leicester blew one in the run up to Flood's first kick.

Back here, Flood and Evans missed a penalty each shortly before half-time. Oddly, in view of what had gone before, Marler and company appeared to splinter Leicester at the first big scrum of the second half without a penalty awarded. It led, nevertheless, to Quins going 16-6 up when the workaholic Leicester flanker Julian Salvi, who had perpetrated a couple of superb turnovers earlier on, did not release in the tackle. The whole sequence had begun with Robshaw's side refusing a kickable penalty – and that was simply more evidence of their self-belief – as Evans eventually accepted the three points.

When Flood twice kicked for a line-out in the opposition 22 rather than for goal, Leicester were unable to profit. From the first the forwards were frustrated and Flood's shot-to-nothing grubber ricocheted away; from the second Nick Easter – the Quins No 8 no longer a part of England's thinking – stole Youngs's line-out throw. Cockerill's Harlequins counterpart, Conor O'Shea, was beaming. "Nick [Easter] is the best No 8 in England and it doesn't matter whether he's 19 or 34," said O'Shea. "He's not written off his international career and if he keeps on doing it, he'll knock his way back in."

With Cole now on, Leicester forced another penalty for a front-row collapse and Flood landed a solid kick from 35 metres. But the poker-faced Evans called that and raised it with two smoothly-stroked penalties in the final 13 minutes. A try had gone begging when Mike Brown and Ugo Monye muffed their lines, and Quins' backline was out of shape, but none of that was enough to keep them off top spot in the four-week-old table.

Leicester Tigers S Hamilton; N Morris (A Thompstone 74), M Smith, A Allen, V Goneva; T Flood, S Harrison (P Phibbs 74); B Stankovich (L Mulipola 48), T Youngs (G Chuter 53-61), M Castrogiovanni (D Cole 48), G Kitchener, G Parling, S Mafi (T Waldrom 48), J Crane (capt), J Salvi.

Harlequins M Brown; T Williams (R Chisholm 21; K Dickson 61), M Hopper, J Turner-Hall (R Clegg 49), U Monye; N Evans, D Care; J Marler, J Gray, J Johnston, O Kohn, G Robson, M Fa'asavalu (T Guest 56), N Easter, C Robshaw (capt).

Referee D Pearson (Northumberland).

Attendance 20,354.

Leicester Tigers

Pens: Flood 3

Harlequins

Try: Williams

Cons: Evans

Pens: Evans 4

Drop goal: Care

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before