NEC Harlequins secured their fourth successive home Zurich Premiership victory with a hard-fought 27-14 defeat of arch rivals London Wasps at the Stoop. After missing the clubs last six matches with a knee injury, Paul Burke returned and scored an individual tally of 22 points, including a last-gasp try right on the stroke of full time.
It was the visitors who took an early lead, with fly half Alex King converting a penalty after only two minutes with Quins offside in midfield. At the same time, Scott Bemand replaced Nick Duncombe, who was forced to leave the field with a hamstring injury.
The home side hit back and after Rob Jewell and Bill Davison made ground, Wasps hooker Phil Greening was penalised for hands in the ruck and Burke successfully converted the penalty to draw the scores level at 3-apiece, with ten minutes on the clock. Six minutes later and Greening was once again penalised, this time for not rolling away at the tackle and Burke put Quins in front with his second penalty.
On 21 minutes, the hosts scored the opening try of the afternoon. Ben Gollings took play into the Wasps twenty-two with an excellent kick to touch and Alex Codling stole possession from the resulting lineout. The ball was quickly shipped into the midfield, where Nick Greenstock burst through the challenge of King and rounded Josh Lewsey before diving over for the score. Burke added the two extra points on offer and Quins had a ten-point advantage (13-3).
Back came Wasps and King kicked a penalty into touch, deep in the Quins twenty-two. A catch and drive from the pack took play up to the line, where the hosts were once again penalised for foul play. Scott Bemand was sin-binned for deliberate offside, but the visitors could not make their extra man advantage count as the Quins defence, and a number of handling errors from the Wasps backs, prevented them from cutting the deficit.
Four minutes before the interval, a break from Rob Jewell followed by powerful driving play from Ace Tiatia, Greenstock and Tani Fuga created the platform for Burke to add another three points with a drop goal. The Quins fly half had another opportunity to add to the scoreboard after a huge tackle from Andre Vos on Fraser Waters resulted in Quins being awarded a penalty right on half-way, but Burke's attempt drifted just left of the target. However, Quins still led 16-3 at half-time.
Two minutes after the restart and Lawrence Dallaglio replaced Mark Lock in the Wasps back row and this was shortly followed by King converting his second penalty of the game, with Quins penalised at a ruck. On 51 minutes, King cut the deficit by a further three points with his third penalty, though Burke responded in similar fashion six minutes later.
As the game entered the final quarter, Wasps crossed for their only try of the match. Dallaglio made a telling break into the Quins twenty-two before the ball went left to Greening, who was able to beat the challenge of Nathan Williams and score in the corner. King failed to convert from wide out, but Wasps were now back to within five points (19-14).
Burke kicked his fourth penalty of the match moments later, with Wasps offside in midfield, which put Quins two scores clear once again. The home side then defended superbly to prevent Wasps from getting back in the game, this despite losing Fuga to the sin-bin for the final ten minutes of play.
After being camped in their own half for the best part of 15 minutes, Quins finished the match by scoring their second try of the game. With Wasps trying to run possession from deep inside their twenty-two, the ball went loose in midfield forcing the visitors to set-up a ruck right on their own line.
Centre Stuart Abbott's attempted clearance was charged down by Burke and he had the simple task of touching down in the right hand corner. The Ireland international failed to find the target with the conversion, but the final whistle followed immediately afterwards and Quins were celebrating their fourth Premiership victory of the season.
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.