Aviva Premiership: Harlequins dispatch London Irish at Twickenham Stoop
Last Updated: 30/03/14 1:58pm
Harlequins revived their Aviva Premiership play-off hopes by seeing off London Irish 23-9 in hard-fought clash at Twickenham Stoop.
England trio Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown and Care returned after being rested for last Saturday's rout by Saracens, but Quins still struggled to put away the Exiles.
It was only when Danny Care floated a superb scoring pass to wing Sam Smith in the 70th minute, establishing an 18-9 lead, that Irish were beaten.
Brown, the recently-crowned player of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, crossed late on to give the scoreline an emphatic appearance that failed to tell the full story of the Exiles' effort.
The boot of full-back James O'Connor, who kicked three penalties, kept them in the hunt until Care spied his chance to deliver the killer blow.
Harlequins had Nick Evans to thank for building their initial lead with the former New Zealand fly-half scoring a solo try and landing two conversions and a penalty.
Quins edged an attritional first half that was light on points, despite the sunshine that greeted the London rivals.
Aside from a lively opening from Irish that saw Topsy Ojo pulled back just short of the whitewash by Smith, both try lines were rarely threatened.
Harlequins-bound wing Marland Yarde almost wriggled through, but Irish's promising start floundered as they conceded penalties at successive scrums.
The whitewash was breached for the only time in the first half when Evans chipped over the visiting defence, jumped to gather the ball and touched down.
Having converted the 12th-minute try, the former All Black then displayed his defensive steel with a thumping tackle on Fergus Mulchrone that flattened the centre.
Irish responded with their brightest spell of the half built around an opportunist counter-attack only for Yarde to scoop the ball into the air as they looked to go wide.
O'Connor and Evans exchanged penalties, but it was the Australian who was on target twice more - once after Tom Fowlie had smashed Matt Hopper into the turf - as Irish took control.
The pressure on Quins continued into the second half, but when O'Connor was offered the chance to kick his side into the lead for the first time, he missed the chance, brushing the right upright.
Yarde and Smith took it in turns to make eye-catching breaks, although the latter should have done more to find his only support runner Care.
The pendulum swung in Quins' favour when Yarde was sin-binned for tackling Jordan Turner-Hall without the ball, enabling Evans to land his second penalty.
The playmaker was enjoying a fine game as he charged down a clearance from O'Connor - the ball bounced safely through the dead ball area - and then raced through the Irish midfield.
Only a tap tackle by Shane Geraghty prevented hooker Dave Ward from crossing as Quins took control of the final quarter.
Irish were beginning to crack under the pressure and the decisive score finally arrived in the 70th minute when Care scooped the ball up from a scrum and floated a missed pass to Smith who dived over.
And with four minutes to go the Exiles' resistance was over as quick hands enabled Brown to slide over the whitewash.
Fri 24th Apr
Bath43 - 18London Irish
Sat 25th Apr
Sale Sharks23 - 25Harlequins
Gloucester42 - 40Newcastle Falcons
Leicester Tigers38 - 17London Welsh
Northampton25 - 20Saracens
Sun 26th Apr
Wasps36 - 29Exeter
Fri 8th May
Harlequins0 - 0Bath
Sat 9th May
Sale Sharks0 - 0Newcastle Falcons
Gloucester0 - 0London Irish
Northampton0 - 0London Welsh
Wasps0 - 0Leicester Tigers
Sun 10th May
Saracens0 - 0Exeter
Sat 16th May
Bath0 - 0Gloucester
Exeter0 - 0Sale Sharks
Leicester Tigers0 - 0Northampton
London Irish0 - 0Wasps
London Welsh0 - 0Saracens
Newcastle Falcons0 - 0Harlequins
Aviva Premiership 2013/14 Round 18
Worcester boss Dean Ryan says a first win of the season could just spark a miraculous escape from relegation.
Worcester claimed their first Aviva Premiership win of the season with a 17-12 victory at Newcastle.
The RFU will take no action over claims from Tom Youngs that he was bitten during Leicester's win over Northampton.
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- Davies: Win could be pivotal
- O'Shea targets Sale showdown
- Young: Sarries had extra gear
- Tigers maul stuttering Saints
- Gloucester hold off Chiefs
- Sarries cut down Wasps
- Ryan: Worcester win crucial
- Worcester v Newcastle: Teams
- Diamond defends scrum fouls
- Saturday's Aviva Prem preview
- Bath v Sale: Teams