Friday, 16th October 2015 @ 22:35
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While Harlequins recruited a number of players over the off season it was the stalwart Nick Evans that guided Harlequins to a 26-21 win over rivals Wasps in the season opener.
With a try, an assist and 16 points with the boot, Evans had a hand in everything on the night but he was supported well by a suffocating defence that allowed the home side to record a deserved victory.
With England’s Rugby World Cup campaign finishing early, The Stoop faithful were more than ready for the club season to begin but it was Jimmy Gopperth who struck first as he gave the visitors an early 0-3 lead with a penalty in the fifth minute.
While Evans answered back with two penalties of his own (accounting for six of his 21 point haul) it was Wasps who were the first to cross the whitewash. Storming downfield from the kick-off tighthead prop Jake Cooper-Wooley was able to barrel over from close range as Harlequins’ defence was left scrambling. Gopperth was unable to add the extras but it was enough to give Wasps a 6-8 lead in the 16th minute.
It was here that Harlequins sprung into life as the end-to-end nature played right into the hands of the Quins back three and Marland Yarde in particular was causing havoc to the Wasps defence.
Finally, in the 23rd minute they cracked as Yarde made metres along the wing and from the resulting ruck scrum-half Karl Dickson spotted some space and chipped behind the line for Nick Evans to run onto, going over untouched to score in the corner. Converting his own try Evans gave Harlequins a 13-8 lead.
Gopperth would soon close the gap with another penalty, but it was Harlequins who went closest to a second try again after another Yarde break. Wasps held on and just before the half-time whistle, Gopperth had a chance to give Wasps the lead, but he pushed his penalty wide and Harlequins went into the break with a slender 13-11 advantage.
After the break, the home crowd began making themselves heard and it was Evans who carved through the defence to put Quins back on the attack. The forwards began to rumble the ball up field and when they got within ten metres of the line Evans subtlety delayed his pass to put George Lowe over. Harlequins led 20-11 with half an hour to play.
In the 54th minute Harlequins received their biggest cheer of the night as Joe Marler and Mike Brown returned form World Cup duty via the replacements bench, soon followed by Nick Easter, as the crowd roared with approval.
The home advantage began to make an impact as for near on ten minutes Harlequins held out attack after attack from Wasps before finally succumbing to a Gopperth penalty in the 60th minute, closing the gap to 20-14.
In the 62nd minute Wasps hooker Ashley Johnson went close before turning the ball over inches short, Harlequins pounced and ran it from their own goal eventually winning a penalty to clear their lines.
While they couldn’t get over for a third try, Evans knocked over penalties in the 69th minute and again in the 74th minute to give Harlequins a seemingly insurmountable 26-14 lead with less than five minutes to play.
However, Elliot Daly struck from nowhere to close the gap to 26-21 with three minutes still to play and the 13,100 in attendance collectively held their breath as Wasps had one final crack at victory.
It was not meant to be for the visitors though as Harlequins’ defence once again proved stifled the opposition. Fittingly the match was ended as Joe Marler turned the ball over before Mike Brown ran it into touch as the team received an even bigger cheer than the one earlier in the half.
Full-time and Harlequins won 26-21 to get their 2015/16 campaign off to the perfect start.
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