It was quite a welcome to Aviva Premiership Rugby for Harlequins new boy Jamie Roberts and he believes the club’s attacking style will be a winning one this season – as long as the errors are cut out.
In what will go down as one of the season’s most exciting games, Harlequins and Gloucester Rugby traded two tries apiece in the first half at Twickenham but there were bigger fireworks to come.
Henry Trinder scored a double but in the process of crossing for his second pulled his hamstring, while Nick Easter and Ross Chisholm touched down for Harlequins in between.
Greig Laidlaw’s penalty and Rob Cook’s converted try then put the Cherry and Whites ten points ahead with ten minutes to go, but to the delight of a 70,000-strong crowd at Big Game 8, Harlequins roared back.
Evans notched a penalty and though he converted Chisholm’s second of the evening – after Richard Hibbard had been sin-binned for pulling down a maul – he missed a last-gasp drop-goal to win the game.
Instead it ended 39-39, and Wales centre Roberts admits Harlequins shot themselves in the foot.
“I’ve been at the club only two weeks and one thing that is glaringly obvious is that you’re encouraged to play rugby, chuck the ball around and embrace the game,” he said.
“Obviously that comes with an element of risk, sometimes it work and sometimes you get that. If you don’t do it with accuracy it can come back to bite you.
“It was quick and open, I think Conor O’Shea hit the nail on the head in the changing rooms – I think we drew five tries all with Harlequins today.
“We played some great rugby, scored some great points, but gifted them three interception tries so we’re disappointed with it.
“The lungs are blowing a bit, certainly after a few months break after the World Cup, but it’s a great club and the first thing that struck me was how professional it is here.”
Up in the West Midlands, Saracens underlined why they are the team to beat heading into 2016 after a ruthless second-half display against Wasps.
Wasps were holding Saracens at bay until the break, but Duncan Taylor and Owen Farrell raced over the line within minutes of each other to hand their side a 26-16 victory – and Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top spot.
But Wasps director of rugby Dai Young put the result into perspective.
“Saracens have been up there for three or four years but we haven’t,” said Young. “So we’re a work in progress, that’s where we are.
“Sarries have built and built, they’re a settled squad and we’re on that journey. As we’ve seen today, we’re not a million miles away.”
And Bath Rugby ended the year on a high note after a campaign of ups and downs so far as they edged a tight one 21-14 over Worcester Warriors at the Rec.
Ollie Devoto and Horacio Agulla raced over for Bath while Cooper Vuna got on the scoresheet, but the hosts managed to edge away in the second half through two Rhys Priestland penalties.
Much of the attention on Saturday was focused on the Madejski Stadium as London Irish pulled off their first Aviva Premiership Rugby win under Tom Coventry in stunning style.
It looked as if the game was veering away from the Exiles but a converted penalty try with just two minutes to go secured a 25-23 win over Northampton Saints.
Luke Narraway had opening the scoring for Irish and Sean Maitland followed over, but tries from Ken Pisi, George North and Kahn Fotuali’i nosed Northampton in front – before the hosts’ final flourish.
And Coventry admitted his overriding emotion was one of relief.
“It was like Christmas Day as we showed a lot of Christmas spirit to get there in the end,” he said. “It was a definite shot in the arm as it's been a tough time and will give us a lot of confidence."
At the other end of the table, Exeter Chiefs kept up their march as they ended 2015 having lost just once in the calendar year at Sandy Park with a 33-17 victory over Sale Sharks.
They were given a scare by Sale after Josh Beaumont’s converted try opened up a seven-point lead shortly after half-time – but Will Chudley was never going to end up on the losing side.
The Exeter scrum-half grabbed his second try of game shortly after and Gareth Steenson’s penalty edged Chiefs in front, before James Short and Tom Johnson fleshed out the scoreline.
The scoreline was slightly harsh on Sale, but director of rugby Steve Diamond admits an inaccurate final quarter cost his side dearly.
"We were in it for 60 minutes but then a bit inexperience and lack of composure let us down," he said. "We were probably worthy of a bonus point but those conditions [we played in] were hard.
"We are just missing a little bit of skills at the highest level. Overall, I'm reasonably pleased but we just lost that arm wrestle."
Leicester Tigers also remain on the charge heading into 2016 after a 22-10 victory over Newcastle Falcons made of substance rather than style.
Tigers were trailing 10-0 early on following a try from Tonga captain Nili Latu, but they came back fighting thanks to Peter Betham.
The Australia international’s try galvanised Richard Cockerill’s men and they held the Falcons to no further scores, while Telusa Veainu and Laurence Pearce completed a 22-10 victory.
But Cockerill conceded: "I'll take the four points but we were pretty ordinary.
"We'll all be a bit frustrated but we'll get back to a proper training week this week and those no distractions for the really big game down at the Allianz (against Saracens) next week.”
Harlequins 39 Gloucester Rugby 39
Tries: Yarde, Care, Easter, Chisholm 2
Conversions: Evans 4
Penalties: Evans 2
Tries: Cook, Trinder 2, Thrush, Hook
Conversions: Laidlaw 4
Penalties: Laidlaw 2
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Wasps 16 Saracens 26
Penalties: Gopperth 2, Daly
Tries: Taylor, Farrell
Conversions: Farrell 2
Referee: JP Doyle
Exeter Chiefs 33 Sale Sharks 17
Tries: Waldrom, Chudley 2, Short, Johnson
Penalties: Steenson, Hooley
Tries: Addison, Beaumont
Conversions: Cipriani 2
Referee: Dean Richards
Leicester Tigers 22 Newcastle Falcons 10
Tries: Veainu, Betham, Pearce
Conversions: Burns 2
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
London Irish 25 Northampton Saints 23
Tries: Narraway, Maitland, Penalty
Conversions: Noakes, Geraghty
Penalties: Noakes 2
Tries: K Pisi, North, Fotuali'i
Penalties: Myler 2
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