Quins are building on success with England in mind
Harlequins 17 Wasps 10
Monday 10 January 2011
Harlequins may have overtaken London Wasps in the race for a play-off place in the Premiership, but when England announce their Six Nations squad on Wednesday the chances are that Wasps will still have the edge.
Prop Joe Marler, the scorer of Harlequins' opening try in a first half of quite outstanding rugby on Saturday, has yet to prove himself an adequate scrummager; Mike Brown deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Delon Armitage, but the London Irishman has greater international experience at full-back; has Ugo Monye, the 2009 British Lions wing, done enough in an injury-stricken season to deserve promotion from the Saxons squad?
Yet Conor O'Shea, the Harlequins director of rugby, is doing a wonderful job for Martin Johnson and his coaching staff. Of Saturday's match squad, 21 were qualified for England. "Wasps, Bath, Leicester, all these great sides have been predominantly English and we want what they've had," O'Shea said.
Hence the encouragement of such talent as Jordan Turner-Hall, Tom Guest and now Marler, 20, who should prove an outstanding mainstay in England front rows in the years to come. But not yet, it seems.
"Joe [Marler] has a lot to learn and he knows it," O'Shea said. "You'd have to say, too, that Martin Johnson and Graham Rowntree [England's scrummaging coach] know their tight-five forwards."
So Wasps, who elected to omit flanker Joe Worsley and lock Simon Shaw from their match squad to comply with the rest requirements of the England senior squad agreement, can look forward to Tim Payne retaining his place in Johnson's Six Nations squad, even though the experienced loose-head prop was replaced early in the second half by the eager-beaver Charlie Beech.
The two replacement props, Beech and Ben Broster, were prominent in a much-improved second-half performance from the visitors, but all it brought was a penalty goal by David Walder.
Harlequins were as durable in defence as they had been ambitious in attack before the interval. Marler's try was followed by a well-worked effort for Richard Haughton on the Wasps wing, but the variety and breadth of the two other tries were a singular example of what can be achieved under the current laws, even on a sticky, energy-sapping pitch.
"Two tries from turnovers when we didn't react quickly enough," Shaun Edwards, the Wasps head coach, grumbled, but they were also the result of Harlequins' willingness to keep ball in hand.
Turner-Hall's ability to stay on his feet was a crucial factor in Brown's try, after George Lowe seemed to have spurned an overlap, and Nick Easter's drive to the line capped a flowing, 80-metre move which, like a tidal wave, just kept coming – as Harlequins may well do for the rest of this season.
Harlequins: Tries Marler, Brown, Easter; Conversion Evans. Wasps: Try Haughton. Conversion Van Gisbergen; Penalty Walder.
Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams (T Casson, 67), G Lowe, J Turner-Hall, U Monye; N Evans, D Care; J Marler, J Gray (C Brooker, 37), M Lambert, O Kohn (T Vallejos, 61), G Robson, T Guest (W Skinner, 55), C Robshaw (capt), N Easter.
Wasps M van Gisbergen; R Haughton (D Lemi, 57), B Jacobs (capt), S Kefu (S Jones, 61), T Varndell; R Flutey (D Walder, 49), N Berry (J Simpson, 13-23, 49); T Payne (C Beech, 49), T Lindsay, I Taulafo (B Broster, 49), M Veale, J Cannon, R Birkett, S Betsen, A Powell.
Referee W Barnes (London).
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