Chris Robshaw’s first-half brace of tries proved crucial as Harlequins withstood a stirring second-half fightback from bottom club Leeds Carnegie to continue their upward mobility in the Guinness Premiership.
The 23-year-old flanker, who made his England debut against Argentina in June, showed brute power to twice burrow his way over the line and help the visitors into a 24-13 interval lead.
Yet Leeds head coach Neil Back has fashioned a side with guts. His men hit back with two tries in seven second-half minutes through Kearnan Myall and Tom Denton to ensure a scoreline of 30-27 in the visitors’ favour going into the final quarter of the match.
Leeds pushed hard for a try that could have secured only their second win of the season but Quins answered just about every question that was asked of them when it mattered most.
Since their momentous win at Wasps, Leeds have now lost three Guinness Premiership matches in succession and a losing bonus point was little consolation for their efforts. For Harlequins, life is beginning to look a lot better after the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal which threatened to bring the club to its knees in the summer.
After a woeful start to the season, Quins have lost only one of their last six Guinness Premiership outings to encourage hopes that they challenge at the top end of the table again.
Leeds forged ahead with a well-constructed try in the fifth minute when Andy Gomarsall quickly recycled the ball to allow Richard Welding to re-emerge and squeeze over from point-blank range after his earlier involvement in the move. Joe Ford added the easiest of conversions but the response from Harlequins was admirable.
They pinned back Leeds deep inside their own 22 and, after Nick Evans got them off the mark with a long-range penalty, Robshaw burrowed his way through a thicket of players to touch down in the 12th minute. Evans added the extras and, although Leeds drew level with a penalty from Ford midway through the opening period, a horrendous defensive lapse gave Quins their second try moments later.
A high kick in the left channel was completely missed by Leeds full-back Leigh Hinton and centre George Lowe gleefully collected the bouncing ball and ran over the line at a canter. Evans added the conversion to put his side 17-10 ahead but 10 minutes later Harlequins’ England scrum-half Danny Care was shown a yellow card for a late tackle on Rhys Oakley.
Ford landed another penalty but Robshaw claimed his second try in the 35th minute, which was converted by Evans. Evans then added a three-pointer in the 47th minute put the visitors 27-13 in front.
Yet Leeds hit back three minutes later when Myall was driven over the line and a similar effort from young replacement Denton seven minutes later – both converted by the impressive Ford – got Leeds right back in contention after Evans had kicked another penalty in between.
Evans spurned the opportunity to give his side breathing space when his late penalty rebounded off a post but it did not matter.