Sanderson forces Quins to think the unthinkable

Worcester 33 Harlequins 7
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The Independent Online

Once upon a time in the amateur era, Harlequins pitched up at Orrell for a cup match, having derided their hosts as a "lay-by off the M6", and went home beaten and with their tails between their legs.

Once upon a time in the amateur era, Harlequins pitched up at Orrell for a cup match, having derided their hosts as a "lay-by off the M6", and went home beaten and with their tails between their legs.

The London club's present- day representatives, aristocratic by reputation if not necessarily by nature, would not have come to this neat little ground by the M5 with a similarly lax attitude. But the result was just the same, and potentially far more damaging in a world of points, professional pressure and profit and loss.

Mark Evans, enduring twice the agony as both Quins' chief executive and head coach, refused to talk of fresh recruitment after this drubbing by five tries to one, for fear of belittling his players. He had seen Worcester do that job for him.

It must have been for after-noons such as these that Cecil Duckworth kept the faith during a decade of bankrolling the Warriors from the wilds of regional rugby to the heady heights this morning of fourth from bottom in the Premiership. Is it too early for Evans and company to begin scanning the top of National League One, and noting which clubs might fail the Premiership's entry criteria? Not at all. A quarter of the league programme has passed with Quins winless, and facing Gloucester and Leicester in their next two assignments.

"There's no hiding from it, this is as serious as it's been in my time at the club," said Evans, who moved to The Stoop from Saracens in April 2000. "I think our commitment was fine, the boys put their bodies on the line, but we've got a lot of work to do. We're very low on confidence."

In contrast, Worcester celebrated their first win in the Premiership at the fifth attempt with a gusto born of pent-up relief and immense satisfaction. They have already earned more points than the previous promoted club, Rotherham, earned all last season.

Worcester had a host of former Harlequins - five players and a coach, Andy Keast, lining up to put the boot in, literally in the case of scrum-half Matt Powell, who crammed a career's worth of precision box-kicks and touch-finders into one match. The on-field captain, Pat Sanderson, was inspired, feasting on the visitors' shocking inability to hang on to the ball.

Sanderson scored his side's first try, one of two scores inside the first 15 minutes which ensured Quins had no comfort zone. Ben Hinshelwood, Worcester's club skipper, got the other, scooting into the left corner after Quins fumbled away line-out possession. Luke Sherriff quickly replied with a try from a line-out, but Jeremy Staunton's conversion was Harlequins' last scoring effort with an hour still to play.

Two replacement forwards - Siaosi Vaili and Lee Fortey - and the fly-half James Brown went over for Worcester in the second half. "It wasn't about scrapping a win," said Sanderson. "We were on form and we played to our gameplan." Quins urgently need a Plan B.

Worcester: T Delport; B Gollings, D Rasmussen, T Lombard, B Hinshelwood; J Brown, M Powell (C Stuart-Smith, 68); T Windo (S Sparks, 68), B Daly, N Lyman (L Fortey, 56; Sparks 63-68), T Collier (M Gabey, 51), C Gillies, L Greeff (S Vaili, 16; A van Niekerk, 71), D Hickey, P Sanderson (capt).

Harlequins: G Duffy; G Harder, W Greenwood, D James, S Keogh (U Monye, 58); J Staunton (A Dunne, 53), S So'oialo; C Jones, A Tiatia, J Dawson (M Lambert, 47-55, 68), K Rudzki (O Palepoi, 68), S Miall, L Sherriff (N Easter, 34-39), T Diprose (R Winters, 5-12), A Vos (capt).

Referee: S Leyshon (Gloucestershire).

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