Harlequins recovered from an uncharacteristic mauling at the hands of Saracens last week as they battled back to beat neighbours Wasps, thanks to a near flawless kicking display from Ben Botica.
Botica, filling in for the injured Nick Evans, contributed 13 points as second-half scores from Chris Robshaw and a penalty try handed Harlequins a deserved victory.
Quins finished scoreless in a game for the first time since the 2009 Premiership semi-final last weekend as they were mauled 39-0, and the severity of that defeat seemed to have an impact on their play in the opening exchanges.
On the back foot, Harlequins’ debutant Asaeli Tikoriotuma was called into action after only five minutes to mop up a kick through from Wasps fly-half Andy Goode as the visitors pressed.
Comparatively, Wasps – who have beaten Harlequins just once in their last ten attempts – dominated the set piece in the opening 15 minutes and with the possession and the territory.
Seemingly brimming with confidence after last weekend’s surprise 20-16 win over defending Aviva Premiership champions Northampton Saints – Wasps played on the front foot in the opening 20 minutes.
Wasps’ blistering start was finally rewarded on 14 minutes as former England wing Tom Varndell created the overlap with a burst of pace, he was halted but the ball was recycled and Elliot Daly offloaded for Guy Thompson to score from 20 yards out – Goode added the extras.
After a shaky start kicking from hand, Botica dragged Harlequins back into the game with a long range penalty on 20 minutes.
Tikoirotuma thought he was about score for Harlequins straight from the kick-off but for the second time in the first-half Wasps’ No.8 Nathan Hughes saved his side with a great cover tackle.
Despite the bright opening, Wasps stuttered at the midway point of the second-half and after giving away another cheap penalty – Botica pulled Quins back to within a point of the visitors with his second penalty of the game.
However, with nine minutes of the first-half remaining Goode extended Wasps’ lead with a penalty of his own.
Following the midweek news fellow Wasps fly-half Ruaridh Jackson will miss most of the season with a severe knee injury, the kicking pressure is now firmly on the former Leicester man and Goode responded in style off the tee to make the score 10-6.
During last week’s hammering against Saracens, Harlequins struggled at the set piece and their Achilles heel came back to haunt them once again as they were penalised at scrum-time.
Fortunately for the home team, Goode was unable to take advantage as his kick struck the woodwork and bounced to safety, but just two minutes later the Wasps No.10 made up for his earlier error to extend the score to 13-6.
But with just minutes of the half remaining, Wasps’ prop Lorenzo Cittadini was penalised at scrum-time in front of the posts and Botica landed his third successful kick to leave the half-time score at 13-9.
Seven minutes into the second-half Quins got their noses in front for the first time; England wing Christian Wade was unable to cleanly touch the ball down behind his own line from a Danny Care kick-through, allowing former skipper Chris Robshaw the easiest of tasks to touch down.
And Botica extended the home side’s lead to 16-13 as he successfully landed his kick at goal to give Harlequins the momentum.
Harlequins went further ahead on 50 minutes thanks to a penalty try. England full-back Mike Brown thought he had touched down but referee JP Doyle disagreed and went to the television match official.
The replays showed Brown had unsuccessfully grounded the ball but Doyle awarded a penalty try for a trip by Kearnan Myall in the build-up to the score and also yellow carded the Wasps’ man for his troubles – Botica added the extras to make it 23-13.
Wasps’ solitary away victory in Aviva Premiership Rugby so far this calendar year was their trip to Worcester back in March and it showed as Dai Young’s men collapsed in the final 25 minutes against Harlequins.
And it got worse for Wasps as England scrum-half Danny Care further extended his side’s lead just minutes later with a rare drop goal to make the score 26-13.
Varndell handed Wasps a late lifeline as he dotted down for the visitors after some good work by scrum-half Joe Simpson but unfortunately Goode was unable to close the gap further as he missed his conversion.
Charlie Matthews was sin-binned in the dying minutes for a deliberate knock-on – Wasps were handed the penalty and kicked for touch.
From the resulting line-out James Gaskell claimed the ball from an Ashley Johnson throw and Wasps bundled the ball down over the try-line through Thomas Young to make the score 26-23 – Goode unfortunately badly sliced his conversion.