While Harlequins' captain Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Ugo Monye and Joe Marler had their feet up for this match-up of two Premiership title contenders – in expectation of playing for England next Saturday – the full-back Mike Brown put in an excellent shift for the champions as they beat Gloucester 28-25.
Brown was released from England training last Tuesday evening. His battering try as Quins built a 22-12 half-time lead was typical of the pace in wide channels that his club exploit through the vision of fly-half Nick Evans. "I'll switch back to England mode on Sunday," Brown said, referring to the squad gathering again in Bagshot, "and see what team they pick next week. I can't do any more than what I've been doing." It may be that he loses out to Saracens' Alex Goode, who scores as a playmaker. A player with the pair's combined attributes would be a wonder.
Brown was with England long enough last week to hear the pep talk from cyclist Bradley Wiggins. "He spoke really well," Brown said. "He's a bit of a Jack the Lad and really interesting about how he was so down at some points and worked hard on what people told him to do."
The last few minutes here were all about the scrum and its myriad mysteries and tactics. Ben Morgan, the Gloucester No 8, had just taken 15 stitches to a cut head when he was sent to the sin bin for handling on the ground in his 22. Quins, 28-18 up, chose to scrum against Gloucester's seven men. Quins postponed their intended substitution of Lambert by Daryl Marfo.
There was a reset and a free-kick, then Gloucester swapped their tightheads, bringing on Dario Chistolini. Another free-kick and two penalties in Quins' favour pointed towards a penalty try and a bonus point. But the home side were penalised themselves when Joe Gray was popped up at the sixth scrum. Gloucester broke away with glee to claim a bonus of their own with Billy Twelvetrees' try.
Harlequins: Tries Brown, Hopper, Smith; Conversions Evans 2; Penalties Evans 3. Gloucester: Try Twelvetrees; Conversion Burns; Penalties Burns 6.
Harlequins M Brown; T Williams, M Hopper, T Casson (B Botica, 41), S Smith; N Evans, K Dickson; M Lambert, J Gray, J Johnston, O Kohn, G Robson, M Fa'asavalu, L Wallace, N Easter (capt).
Gloucester M Thomas; S Monahan, M Tindall (capt), B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel (R Cook, 41); F Burns, J Cowan (D Robson, 70); D Murphy (N Wood, 49), H Edmonds (T D'Apice, 70), R Harden (D Chistolini, 77), T Savage (P Buxton, 70), W James, M Cox, A Qera, B Morgan (G Evans 63-70).
Referee W Barnes (London).