No reprieve for humbled Quins

Worcester 33 Harlequins 7
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The Independent Online

The celebrations went on well into the evening and rightly so. Worcester had just recorded their inaugural Zurich Premiership win, an annihilation of Harlequins, so the occasion was deserving of some carousing.

The celebrations went on well into the evening and rightly so. Worcester had just recorded their inaugural Zurich Premiership win, an annihilation of Harlequins, so the occasion was deserving of some carousing. But this morning is the first day of the rest of their season and Worcester now have to prepare for the next game, at Leeds, a far different prospect from Harlequins.

And the Londoners have an even grimmer prospect. The humiliation at the hands of newcomers Worcester was bad enough, Quins' fifth straight defeat is their worst start to the season in the professional game and they conceded five tries to boot, scoring just once themselves.But ahead lie five more weeks of sheer torture as they run up against Gloucester, Leicester, Munster, Castres and Wasps in domestic and European competition. Not a pleasant prospect at the best of times, but truly daunting when viewed from the bottom of the table.

So, judging by their appaling inability to hang on to the ball, hanging on to their self-belief will present head coach Mark Evans with a huge task as he and his coaching team try to put this humiliation behind them.

"It's a crisis," admitted Evans, who is also chief executive of Quins. "This is about as serious as it has been in my time at the club."

While Harlequins were staggeringly bad in just about every aspect of the game, Worcester were staggeringly efficient, recycling rapidly at the rucks, providing clean ball, thus allowing halfbacks Matt Powell and James Brown to run the show.

The service from Powell was exemplary, his grub-kicking precise, and as for Brown, he called the shots that blasted huge holes in a ragged Quins defence and wrapped up a fine all-round performance with the final try.

The Worcester forwards, inspired by captain Pat Sanderson at openside and No 8 Drew Hickey, looked unstoppable for much of the game. They drove their opponents over the line a couple of times; the scrum was solid, the line-out productive or disruptive, as the situation required; they were ruthless at the breakdown and slick and skilful in the loose.

Yet, remarkably, Worcester had undergone a similar trouncing, if not slightly worse, at Sale the previous weekend. Evans ought to have a chat with Andy Keast, the Worcester director of rugby, to find out how he managed such a turnaround.

All the shellshocked Evans could say afterwards was that he intends tackling the crisis with "heart and soul". He added: "Our ball retention was really poor. We only put in at two scrums. Two scrums! That says that Worcester made virtually no mistakes, no knock-ons, no forward passes, nothing."

Worcester though were not gloating in victory. "It is one game and there are 17 more to go," said Sanderson. "But it was a massive game for us. Today we were on form." On fire would be nearer the mark. And there is every chance, on this showing, that other Premiership sides could get burned like Quins.

Worcester: Tries Sanderson, Hinshelwood, Vaili, Fortey, Brown; Conversions Brown 4. Harlequins: Try Sherriff; Conversion Staunton.

Worcester: T Delport; D Rasmussen, B Hinshelwood, T Lombard, B Gollings; J Brown, M Powell (C Stuart-Smith, 68); T Windo (L Fortey, 69), B Daly, N Lyman (L Fortey, 57-64; S Sparks, 64), T Collier (M Gabey, 52), C Gillies, L Greeff (S Vaili, 17-72; A van Niekirk, 72), D Hickey, P Sanderson (capt).

Harlequins: G Duffy; G Harder, W Greenwood, D James, S Keogh (U Monye, 59); J Staunton (A Dunne, 54), S So'oialo; C Jones, A Tiatia, J Dawson (M Lambert, 48-56 & 68), K Rudzki (O Palepoi, 68), S Miall, L Sherriff (N Easter, 36-40 & 68), T Diprose (R Winters, 6-13), A Vos (capt).

Referee: S Leyshon (Gloucestershire).

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