Friday, 16th January 2015 @ 23:30
Harlequins’ fate of progressing through to the knock-out stages of the European Rugby Champions Cup will be decided next week as they look to qualify as one of the three best runners up, following a frustrating and disappointing 3-23 defeat to Wasps.
The Londoners sit in third place of Pool 2 and will require a try bonus point victory at Castres next week; before waiting on other results to come in as the Pool stages conclude.
Despite the one sided score line, the statistics heavily favoured Harlequins who enjoyed 67% possession, 70% territory, made 574 metres and forced Wasps to make close to 200 tackles.
Wasps managed to take their chances, gifted from two Quins errors and were then able to extend the lead with two Andy Goode penalties and a monster effort from Elliott Daly; surprisingly all Harlequins had to show for their valiant effort was a sole Ben Botica penalty.
Wasps took the early lead on three minutes with Goode converting a penalty after Nathan Hughes punched a hole in the defence. From here it was hugely one sided in Quins’ favour. Marland Yarde sliced through the defence and minutes later Nick Easter found a gap and put in a neat grubber kick for Yarde to chase again; the ball eventually rolled to touch, but Harlequins were in full control.
These exciting passages happened within the first ten minutes, but when Danny Care sent a wide looping pass from a quick tap penalty, Christian Wade intercepted the ball from a George Lowe fumble in the 22 and raced under the posts. The conversion was added and Wasps were gifted a 0-10 lead.
Despite Harlequins working their expansive and fast paced brand of rugby, they were defending a lineout in their half when Mike Brown’s clearing kick went out on the full.
Wasps’ electric scrum-half Joe Simpson sniped from the base of a ruck, sold a dummy to Will Collier and ran under the posts to deliver a sucker punch to Harlequins. The simplest of conversions from Goode extended the lead to 0-17.
Harlequins were relentless in attack and continued to fight deep inside the Wasps 22 for the remainder of the first half. Wasps conceded 13 penalties throughout the match and Harlequins turned down all but one of these opportunities to kick at goal; such was their ambition to play.
Wasps’ Hughes was sent to the sin bin on 29 minutes for a continued team offence at the breakdown, but Harlequins were unable to impact the scoreboard during this time.
Choosing to attack from the scrummaging and lineout set pieces, two Ben Botica chip kicks over the defence were easily touched down in-goal by the Wasps defence, forcing a clearing 22 drop out.
In the final attack of the half the Wasps defence was solid; Harlequins eventually held on in the tackle and the half ended 0-17 in the visitors’ favour.
Starting the second half like the first, Goode slotted his second penalty attempt when George Robson infringed at the breakdown.
Care made a searing break into the Wasps half in response which ultimately lead to Botica breaking Harlequins’ deadlock with a penalty.
It was a stop start and scrappy second half in comparison to the first, and when Daly was presented the opportunity to attempt a long range shot at goal, he duly converted the 55 metre kick to extend Wasps’ lead to 3-23.
You could not fault Harlequins’ desire and intent to play throughout the match, but as the remainder of the half unfolded, it was clear that it was not to be their night; attacks broke down with turnovers and knock-ons, while Wasps’ defence was solid.
The conclusion to the group stages is set to be a nail biter next week in France as Harlequins look to keep their European dream alive.