Harlequins breathed a sigh of relief today when they proved that they can at least still beat struggling Worcester.
The 36-15 victory was only the second by Dean Richards’ side in their last 14 games in all competitions. The other was by 10-7 at Worcester in December.
Confidence was low on both sides, but it has now sunk even further for the visitors, who still have only one Guinness Premiership success all season and are still not clear of bottom club Leeds.
It was the third meeting of the sides, but for Worcester their early EDF Energy Cup victory at The Stoop must seem an awful long time ago.
With less than 20 minutes to go it was only 12-8, but they were well beaten by the end and Harlequins strengthened their position at sixth in the table.
After an early Adrian Jarvis penalty had struck the post and stayed out Harlequins were not much longer in making their possession count.
Scrum-half Danny Care’s ability to spot a gap and dart through it was a constant threat and from one of his breaks after 12 minutes flanker and man-of-the-match Will Skinner took the ball, cleverly chipped over the head of full-back Thinus Delport and scored.
Jarvis converted and just five minutes later Quins made it 12-0. Care was the instigator again and although he was stopped five metres short Worcester were unable to prevent centre Hal Luscombe going over wide out on the right.
It would have been no surprise at that point if it turned into a rout, but instead the Warriors showed battling qualities and reduced the deficit to 12-8 even before the half-hour was up.
First stand-off James Brown landed a penalty, then New Zealander Rico Gear was awarded a try in the corner. It looked a very tight call as he was tackled into touch by opposite number Ugo Monye, but referee Dave Pearson consulted with his touch judge before signalling the score.
Brown could not convert, but more worrying for the visitors was that captain Pat Sanderson had to leave the field with an arm injury. It was the former England player’s late try that settled the cup clash between the two sides on this ground in November.
Jarvis was wide with two very kickable penalties in the remainder of the half and one attempt at a fancy back pass by Nick Easter came to nothing. Hopefully he made a mental note not to do the same against France if he keeps his place.
This was his first 80 minutes of 2008 as his return to the England pack last weekend came after six weeks out with a knee problem and he was taken off in Italy.
When Jarvis wasted another penalty chance in the 54th minute the home fans did not hide their displeasure at him and at Easter’s decision to kick at goal rather than set up an attack.
Two minutes later, almost inevitably, a similar decision had to be made. Again Quins opted to go for three points, but although full-back Mike Brown was the one given the kick this time he also failed.
Five penalties in all being missed kept Worcester right in it, but they could not make the most of winning a lineout against the throw and shortly afterwards a huge cheer went up when the home side declined a kick at goal and went for the lineout instead.
It did not result in the try sought, but Worcester flanker Drew Hickey was sin-binned for his illegal work and this time the recalled Jarvis did make the straightforward penalty. Cue even bigger cheers, of course.
Seven points down entering the last 15 minutes still meant that Worcester were hoping for more than just a losing bonus point, even though they were a man down. But it was not to be as Steve So’oialo picked up a chance and went over for another try.
Not only that, but Jarvis added the extra points from wide out. As last week at Saracens Worcester had conceded a crucial try against them when reduced to 14.
Further tries came from Tosh Masson and wing Tom Williams, Jarvis converting both, while in between Brown burst over to provide some small consolation for Mike Ruddock’s men, who also had centre Sam Tuitupou yellow-carded just before the final whistle.