A three-try burst in the opening twelve minutes set Harlequins on their way to a 30-23 win over Worcester in the Guinness Premiership at Sixways on Thursday. The win takes Harlequins second, and leaves worcester looking nervously over their shoulders at the bottom of the table.
It was a superb open game, with plenty of ebb and flow. Worcester dominated the opening exchanges territorially, and a magnificent break by young debutant Charlie Fellows led to a drop goal by Matthew Jones. Quins rode their luck, but once they got down the home team's end, they never looked back.
They notched three tries in five minutes. The first was dotted down by Ugo Monye after Chris Malone had brought the entire defence to a momentary standstill with a shimmy, and split it open with a grubber through.
From the restart, Quins moved forward with purpose, and then Danny Care again made the defence pause with the ball in hand, before popping to Gonzalo Tiesi on a straight angle, and the Argentinian had enough gas to step Chris Latham on his way to the posts.
Again from the restart, Gary Botha and Will Skinner took the ball flat and running straight lines, before the ball went left from Care to Malone who nearly made it to the line, and had the ball ripped off him by Mike Brown, who did make it to the line.
Malone converted only the second of the three tries, but at 17-3 after 12 minutes, it hardly mattered.
A break by Sam Tuitupou, who regathered his own chip before kicking ahead once more for Charlie Fellows, tielded a penalty for Brown killing the ball under pressure, which Matthew Jones dispatched.
But back came Quins, with Monye bullocking off a rehearsed line-out move to within five metres, and only a dive into the ruck from a Quins player spoiled a possible bonus point try.
Quins fell off the boil a bit for a time, and Worcester eked their way back into the match courtesy of a string of penalties at the ruck. Worcester opted for a scrum at one of them, and Ryan Powell's clever switch had Jones in for a score, which he converted himself.
Quins still looked good with the ball in hand, hitting the tackle and keeping the ball alive superbly at times, but began to make some odd errors. A couple more penalties stifled them, and handling errors crept in, and then to compound the jitters David Strettle left with a foot injury. Worcester's defence grew in stature, and it was game on after a lop-sided start. Had Miles Benjamin not over-run Chris Latham after 33 minutes, the home side might well have had an improbable lead.
But the visitors steadied the ship, first with a Malone penalty, and then another intelligent kick deep with Chris Latham out of position saw Monye claim the bonus point try in similar style to his first of the evening. Malone had now found his range, and converted superbly from the touchline for a 13-27 half-time scoreline.
There was no let-up in the second half. One minute in, Latham hit the line at pace and broke it before feeding Benjamin for Worcester's second try, which Jones converted superbly.
Malone landed a long-range penalty to give his side a little more breathing space at 30-20, but Worcester were far from done, winning their own restart and pinching Quins line-out ball moment later.
Benjamin and Tuitupou both made telling breaks as Worcester simply refused to lie down, but the visitors turned the ball over on their line at a crucial moment and survived the Warriors' recovery.
It was Quins who threatened the line next as their handling once again helped them beyond the gain-line towards Worcester's in-goal area. Danny Care knocked on in the decisive moment.
Malone missed a penalty after a moment of thuggery at a scrum from Chris Horsman, and another break from Jordan Turner-Hall went unrewarded as he failed to find his support runners.
Still Worcester pressed, hoping to repeat London Irish's stunnning comeback against Quins last weekend. Brown spilled a long kick ahead in contact, and had the ball gone to Fellows' hand, it could have been a nervier finale.
Jones nailed a penalty to make it 23-30 with five minutes to go, after another break from Worcester, this time from Netani Talei whose offload was deliberately knocked on by Tom Guest, who was yellow-carded for his troubles.
But young flanker Tom Wood took the ball at the wrong side of a ruck at the restart, and Malone had a glorious chance to make the game safe, but the Australian fluffed the simple chance - his fifth miss from nine attempts. The miss ensured Worcester at least got a bonus point, the least they deserved.
Tries: Jones, Benjamin
Cons: Jones 2
Pens: Jones 3
Tries: Monye 2, Tiesi, Brown
Cons: Malone 2
Pens: Malone 2
Yellow card: Guest (Harlequins, 75, deliberate knock-on)
Worcester: 15 Chris Latham, 14 Charlie Fellows, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Miles Benjamin, 10 Matthew Jones, 9 Ryan Powell, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Kai Horstmann, 5 Craig Gillies, 4 Greg Rawlinson (c), 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 2 Aleki Lutui, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Chris Horsman, 17 Chris Fortey, 18 Graham Kitchener, 19 Matt Cox, 20 Matt Powell, 21 Loki Crichton, 22 Alex Grove.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 David Strettle, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Chris Malone, 9 Danny Care, 8 Tom Guest, 7 Will Skinner (c), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Jim Evans, 4 Ollie Kohn, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Tani Fuga, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 George Robson, 19 Phil Davies, 20 Andy Gomarsall, 21 Charlie Amesbury, 22 Waisea Luveniyali.
Date: Thursday, October 2
Kick-off: 19:45 (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Wayne Barnes