Round-up: Nick Evans leads thrilling opening day revival for destructive Harlequins
Nick Evans, the Harlequins fly-half, called it a "scrapbook" kind of match, though perhaps as the new season wears on, not quite in the category of his club's recent red-letter days defeating the likes of Stade Français, Munster and Leicester in last May's Premiership final to become the champions. But overhauling a 27-point deficit to beat Wasps 42-40 with just 25 minutes in which to do it was a record for the league and a shattering blow to poor Wasps, who might have accepted a double bonus point had they not built such a lead to begin with.
Evans scored one of the four tries in 10 minutes that reined Wasps in around the hour mark before completing the job with a penalty on 76 minutes. This was the 32-year-old All Black's 100th appearance for Quins since his debut against Saracens in the 2008 London double header, during which time his club have gone from a promoted team in mid-table to a champion side, both durable and destructive.
"We were really horrific in the first half," Evans said. "We weren't winning the collisions and Wasps exploited that." To the tune of five tries by the 56th minute, including two for the eye-catching wing Christian Wade, who is unlucky not to be in the senior England squad after playing in the midweek matches in South Africa.
"This is a group of players that have been together through some pretty crap times and now some good times as well," Evans said. "We couldn't have managed that comeback a year ago. [Centre] Jordan Turner-Hall called over to me that if we do this it's one to put in our scrapbook."
Evans' future is already the subject of speculation, as his contract – reportedly worth upwards of £300,000, making him a candidate for the "excluded" player whose wages now no longer count towards the salary cap – is up next spring. "Any side in the world would want Nick Evans," said Conor O'Shea, Quins' director of rugby. "If it's his last year, let's go out on a high with him. If it isn't and he's here in a few more years, brilliant."
Both gave the television match official trial a cautious thumbs-up. "Just as long as we don't get people up in the referee's face, exaggeratedly appealing," Evans said. "I don't think that's good for the game."
The other half of the Twickenham double-header was a much more one-sided affair as Saracens hammered London Irish 40-3, with Charlie Hodgson becoming the first player to pass 2,000 points in the Premiership. Elsewhere on Saturday, Danny Cipriani's debut for Sale was one to forget as they were thumped 43-6 at Exeter. And George Pisi scored two tries as Northampton began with a 24-19 victory at Gloucester.
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