A thoroughly inept second-half performance by last season's European Shield winners, Harlequins, ensured a second successive home defeat and a long, hard winter. In a season where home advantage looks like being so important, to lose one at home can be considered careless, but to lose two is damning.
How they contrived to squander a 10-point advantage after the break was nothing short of miraculous, even more so considering Bristol were nearly as appalling. Two tries by Jason Little turned the game and both came from Harlequins' errors. The first, in the 48th minute, was a simple interception as Paul Burke inexplicably elected to pass inside rather than kick high and handsome into touch.
The second was a dreadful misjudgement by Ben Gollingsallowed the ball to bounce. Shane Drahm, Bristol's lively and inventive fly-half, collected and slipped a pass inside to Little. Fifteen minutes had gone in the half and Harlequins had conceded two penalty kicks and two converted tries.
Shaken from their lethargy, they did respond with a try of their own, Nick Greenstock diving on a good kick from Burke to the right-hand corner, but no sooner had they dragged themselves back in the game than they threw it away with thoughtless play and needless infringements.
John Kingston, the Harlequins' head coach, described the team's performance as "shooting ourselves in the foot with two schoolboy errors. At the beginning of the second half, we tried to play from too deep and five points down, with 15 minutes to go, we tried to play rugby in our own 22.'' He did, however, draw consolation from losing 38-32. "I'd rather that than a sterile nine-all draw with no rugby played.''
At least the deciding act was a move of quality and among the missed passes, dropped passes, lost line-outs and general shabbiness, it sparkled like a polished diamond. Drahm collected the ball in his own half, paused to size up his options, casually evaded two lumbering Quins' forwards, and set off on a scampering run. A swift sleight of hand kept the break going and culminated with Matt Salter effectively ending the match.
Harlequins: B Gollings (N Mapletoft, 60); M Moore, N Burrows (M Powell, 79), N Greenstock (C Bell, 60), D Luger; P Burke, S Bemand; J Leonard, K Wood, A Olver, G Morgan (capt) B Davison (A Codling, 57), R Winters, T Diprose (A Alesbrook, 64), P Sanderson (P Fuga, 71).
Bristol: M Carrington; D Rees, A Higgins (S Brown, 48; R Blake, 79), J Little (capt), P Christophers; S Drahm, A Pichot; P Johnstone, M McCarthy, J White, G Archer, A Brown (A Sheridan, 60), J Brownrigg (M Salter, 65), B Sturnham, T Short.
Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol).Reuse content