It is an unwritten law of the Premiership that what goes up must come down, and with indecent haste. The adjustment of the newly ennobled is so dramatic that they can rarely survive the experience. Exeter seem to be the exception to the rule, although it is one thing to win at home and quite another to do so on the road.
After beating Gloucester and Newcastle at Sandy Park, the Chiefs found themselves at the end of their first hammering as Quins scored four tries. "Last week against Sale we were indisciplined," said Conor O'Shea, the Quins director of rugby. "We worked on that. We kept on the right side of Sean. Exeter got on the wrong side of him."
"Sean" was Sean Davey, the referee who made Exeter's difficult task nigh on impossible. In a one-sided second half he sent two Chiefs, the admirable scrum-half Haydn Thomas and the lock James Hanks, to the sin-bin. As if that wasn't enough he also awarded Quins a penalty try.
Under the circumstances, Rob Baxter, Exeter's coach, was remarkably restrained. "A couple of dubious penalty decisions led to the yellow cards and that meant it was a long afternoon for us," he said. "We didn't play the referee well at all. The penalty count was 20-6 to them. At half-time I thought we were still in with a chance but then we didn't see the ball for half an hour. It's not the end of the world. We're still adapting and still improving... the thing is mentally we weren't as desperate as we needed to be."
The Quins fly-half, Nick Evans, kicked a penalty within two minutes, the first of four which added to four conversions amounted to 20 points in an immaculate display of goalkicking. Within seven minutes the Chiefs had lost their No 8, James Phillips, to an ankle injury. At the same time their captain, Tom Hayes, had been given a dressing down by Mr Davey.
Gareth Steenson kicked two penalties to make it 6-6 before Nick Easter scored the first try. After recycling on an industrial scale the No 8 smashed over, planting the ball at the base of a post.
The Quins defence handled everything Exeter could throw at them. Steenson played a passing game, compared to Evans's kicking to the corners, but their attacks were fairlypredictable. The Quins forwards began to enjoy themselves when they set up camp close to the Exeter line. Thomas was sent to the bin 10 minutes into the second half, for failing to retreat 10 yards, and after Evans kicked the penalty, Quins worked Gonzalo Camacho on an overlap down the left flank.
The Chiefs were down to 13 men when Hanks saw yellow for a similar offence to that committed by Thomas. There was no escape for Exeter. Quins were playing the promising young prop Joe Marler, who earlier in the week had a one-to-one session with Jason Leonard. When a scrum close to the Exeter line was repeatedly disrupted, Quins got their penalty try. The fourth try was touched down by Tom Guest; in the last minute the Chiefs wing Mark Foster got over in the corner.
"It wasn't perfect," O'Shea said, "but I'm pretty comfortable with 40 points against a good Exeter side."
Harlequins M Brown; G Camacho, O Smith (R Chisholm, 29), J Turner-Hall, G Lowe; N Evans (R Clegg, 77), D Care (K Dickson, 77); J Marler (C Jones, 65), M Cairns (C Brooker, 52), J Johnston (M Lambert, 52), O Kohn (T Guest, 52), T Vallejos (P Browne, 77), C Robshaw (capt), N Easter, W Skinner.
Exeter Chiefs L Arscott; M Jess, N Sestaret (P McKenzie, 20), B Rennie, M Foster; G Steenson (R Davis, 60), H Thomas (J Poluleuligaga, 63); B Sturgess (B Moon, 77), N Clark (S Alcott, 52), H Tui (C Budgen, 56), T Hayes (capt), J Hanks (D Gannon, 69), T Johnson, J Phillips (C Slade, 6), J Scaysbrook.
Referee S Davey (Sussex).