Harlequins put an end to Gloucester’s fine run of form to remain top of the Aviva Premiership as the reigning champions secured a 28-25 victory at Twickenham Stoop.
The hosts put the absence of captain Chris Robshaw and in-form scrum half Danny Care to international duty behind them to see off their visitors, despite a fine individual display from Gloucester’s Freddie Burns.
Burns was ultra consistent with the boot, scoring six penalties from six, but tries from Mike Brown, Matt Hopper and Sam Smith secured a home victory, despite a late Billy Twelvetrees score for the visitors.
Harlequins were the first to score, Nick Evans making no mistake after powerful play up front resulted in a penalty from a driving maul.
It was all square in the eighth minute, with Burns responding with a coolly-taken penalty of his own after a scrummage broke down in Gloucester’s favour.
But not long later Quins had the first try of the game, Maurie Fa’asavalu breaking away from a line-out in the corner to put his side behind the gain line.
The ball was then switched to Brown, who was this week released back to his club by Stuart Lancaster, and he went over in the corner under considerable pressure from the visiting defence, Evans adding the conversion.
A pulsating start to the match continued as Burns immediately closed the gap with another well-taken penalty, reducing the arrears to four points.
Gloucester’s final execution with the ball was repeatedly letting them down in promising positions, but they could rely on Burns who kicked his third successful penalty to bring the score to 10-9 in favour of the hosts.
And Burns’ consistent boot gave his side the lead for the first time in the match with his fourth well-taken penalty as the interval loomed. However, just as they were thinking of a half-time lead, Quins showed their championship mettle by responding with a try a minute later.
From a tap-penalty following a Gloucester offside, Karl Dickson burst forward before offloading to Tom Williams who found Hopper in space to finish in the corner.
And on the stroke of half-time the hosts increased their lead to ten points with a 40th minute try for Sam Smith following an interception as Gloucester attacked. Evans atoned for missing a conversion five minutes previously to kick his side into a 22-12 half-time lead.
Gloucester knew the next score would be crucial, and they set about getting back into the game with Burns’ fifth successful penalty, awarded after Quins were penalised for crossing in midfield as Brown broke loose.
Two minutes later, the visitors’ revival was dealt a blow when Shane Monahan was sin-binned for tackling Brown in the air as he claimed a high ball.
However, the final finish was lacking, as a sturdy Gloucester defence held firm until Monahan returned to action, with Evans surprisingly missing an easy penalty moments earlier.
But the New Zealander, fresh from signing a new three-year contract with the club, made up for that miss on the hour mark to stretch his side’s lead to ten points.
Burns continued an impressive individual performance though, again kicking a penalty through the posts to take his, and Gloucester’s tally to 18.
The visitors fell further adrift after another Evans penalty, but they continued to fight to the end, despite England No.8 Ben Morgan being sent to the sin-bin.
And a frantic final minute ensued when the score was brought back to 28-25 when Gloucester scrum-half Dan Robson tapped a quick penalty and surged forward and found Twelvetrees who quickly scored the try, allowing Burns to convert in the 80th minute.
But Quins quickly grabbed possession and kicked to touch to ensure a three-point victory.