This season Harlequins have been consistent only in Europe. They started the day as Champions Cup Pool Two leaders but their domestic insecurities returned and they crumbled on the rock of an inspired Wasps defence, slinking into the night looking up the pool table at Leinster and Wasps themselves.
Few could have foreseen this when Harlequins were beating Wasps at High Wycombe back in October. But much has changed for Wasps since then and now they have given themselves a chance – with a final pool game against Leinster to come – of claiming a place in the last eight.
If Nick Easter and Danny Care were at the heart of Harlequins’ attacking intent, Nathan Hughes, James Haskell and Ashley Johnson, so hungry in the tackle, dominated the breakdown and in Joe Simpson, apparently out of the England reckoning, Wasps had a match winner.
It is rare for one side to dominate both possession and territory throughout an entire half and find themselves trailing by 17 points. The Wasps defence, down to 14 men for 10 minutes when Hughes was sent to the sin-bin as the penalty count against his club mounted, was quite outstanding.
Quins played all the rugby but as soon as one door opened it slammed in their face. Playing their high-tempo game, they camped in the Wasps 22 for the second quarter, from where an overhead pass by Care to George Lowe went loose and Christian Wade ran in from 70 metres.
Nine minutes later, Haskell carried his side to only their second visit to the Harlequins 22 and Simpson dummied Will Collier, the guard, to score a second try under the posts. With Andy Goode adding the conversions to his early penalty, Wasps then settled to obdurate defence, assisted by poor Quins decision-making whenever the ball moved wide.
Wasps’ first-half tally of 112 tackles to 22 by Harlequins tells the story, and it was a change to see Rob Miller running the second-half kick-off back and taking Wasps into what was virtually terra incognita, winning his side only their second penalty. Goode duly kicked it from 44 metres.
Harlequins finally put points on the board when Ben Botica knocked over a simple penalty but that was erased by Elliot Daly who, on a still night, let fly from fully 54 metres to drop Wasps’ third penalty just over the bar. A couple of blood injuries hindered the home side’s fluency but their anxiety showed in poor handling.
For all the breaks made by Care, Jack Clifford and Nick Evans, a second-half replacement, they could not even take advantage when Wasps defended once more with 14 men, Alapati Leiua lying injured. When Harlequins won a five-metre scrum, they were pushed off the ball.
Harlequins M Brown; M Yarde (N Evans, 50), M Hopper, G Lowe, T Williams (C Walker, 49-56, Yarde, 60); B Botica (C Walker, 56), D Care; J Marler (capt), J Gray (R Buchanan, 59), W Collier, C Matthews (S Twomey, 72), G Robson (D Marfo, 77), J Clifford (J Chisholm, 69), C Robshaw, N Easter.
Wasps R Miller; C Wade, E Daly, A Leiua (B Jacobs, 70), T Varndell; A Goode, J Simpson, M Mullan (S McIntyre, 70), E Shervington (C Festuccia, 60), L Cittadini (J Cooper-Woolley, 51), B Davies, K Myall (J Gaskell, 35), A Johnson (G Thompson, 65), J Haskell (capt), N Hughes.
Tries Wade, Simpson
Cons Goode 2
Pens Goode 2, Daly
Referee Nigel Davies (Wales).Reuse content