Sunday, 4th January 2015 @ 14:30
In near freezing conditions in Oxford two tries in each half were enough to give Harlequins a 13-24 bonus point win away to London Welsh and start the new year with five points.
It was the home side that started the match on the attack but three times they fell just short before Nick Scott finally went over to give them a deserved early lead. While Welsh were arguably the better side in the first half tries to Karl Dickson and Marland Yarde gave Quins a 10-12 lead at the break.
The London side bounced back well in the second spell but struggled to make it count on the scoreboard until a Kyle Sinckler try extended their lead, before Tom Williams crossed late to secure the bonus point victory.
Conditions in Oxford were cold and foggy and it was the home side that started the brighter with a series of near misses in the opening quarter. Only a try saving Marland Yarde tackle stopped Nick Scott from going over in the fifth minute and from the resulting scrum Seb Stegmann went close on the opposite wing before spilling the ball over the goal line from the cross field kick.
Harlequins drove themselves up the field but mistakes repeatedly cost them. In the 13th minute they again almost paid for one as a Seb Jewell interception saw him break through the midfield before George Lowe scrambled to bring him down with Matt Hopper then forcing former All Black Piri Weepu to knock-on.
Harlequins rumbled their way towards the London Welsh goal line but again made costly errors. After being rewarded a penalty in front of the posts they opted for touch, however Tim Swiel kicked too deep and the ball sailed dead to give Welsh a 22 metre drop out.
A few minutes later the home side finally made their pressure count on the scoreboard as Nick Robinson burst though the midfield and two passes later Paul Rowley went in under the posts with Robinson converting the try for a 7-0 lead.
Harlequins bounced back quickly though as a series of penalties went their way and they drove themselves down the field with Karl Dickson eventually darting over from a quick tap five metres out. While the try went unconverted the gap was closed to just 7-5.
A Robinson penalty extended the Welsh lead but Harlequins struck back just before half time as Marland Yarde touched down in the 38th minute. Some great build up work by the Harlequins pack lead to a Matt Hopper break, and after drawing in the defender he fed Yarde for a simple score. This time Swiel’s conversion was successful and the visitors went into the break ahead 10-12.
Harlequins continued to attack in the second half and after Yarde busted through the defence on the halfway line he fed replacement prop Kyle Sinckler who had enough pace to storm over to score from 25 metres out.
Harlequins now led 10-17 after 52 minutes and they set out to gain the crucial try bonus point. However, while trying to run it from deep in their own half they were penalised at the breakdown and Robinson closed the gap to 13-17. The home side desperately looking for their first win of the season with a crowd of 3,000 behind them.
It was Harlequins however with all the territory in the final quarter and with just eight minutes left on the clock it was two more replacements that set about securing the win. Danny Care found Tom Williams with a fantastic miss pass on the Welsh line and the wing capped off is return from injury with the bonus point try and a 13-24 lead.
While both teams continued to attack in the final minutes of the game, neither side could find their way through the defence and Harlequins held on for the victory.
While not the most memorable of matches, Conor O’Shea’s men will be happy to pick up five competition points on the road as they continue to press for a playoff position. Harlequins now return to The Stoop for back-to-back home matches, first in the the Aviva Premiership v Leicester Tigers next Saturday 10th January before a crucial European encounter v Wasps on Saturday 17th January. Tickets for both matches are available by clicking here.