Danny Care returned to Headingley to orchestrate a bonus-point 32-6 victory which moved Harlequins into second place in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP and all but sealed Leeds’ relegation from the top flight.
Care progressed through the ranks at Leeds’ academy before joining Quins in 2006 and has finally ousted Andy Gomarsall as the London club’s established scrum-half.
The Leeds-born half-back played a prominent role against his former employers, dovetailing effectively with fly-half Adrian Jarvis and scoring a 52nd-minute try before departing to warm applause shortly after the hour mark.
Care’s form earned him a call-up to the England training squad towards the end of the Six Nations and he is expected to be included in the squad to tour New Zealand in the summer.
Care’s contribution aside, Dean Richards’ promising young side were not at their expansive best but they did not need to be against a Leeds outfit for whom relegation beckons.
The match was finely poised at 11-3 in Quins’ favour at half-time but the visitors moved through the gears after the break to register tries from Care, Jim Evans and captain Will Skinner to add to Mike Brown’s first-half opener and earn a bonus point.
Leeds did not help themselves in the early exchanges and one shocking offload from Argentinian fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo fell woefully short of his nearest team mate.
If that glaring error did not underline the gulf in class between Leeds and the majority of Premiership sides then Harlequins’ opening try in 13th minute did.
It was so simple yet so clinical as Jarvis flighted a high hanging kick into Leeds’ right corner and full-back Brown outjumped Richard Welding to ground the ball with ease.
Jarvis failed to add to his third-minute penalty as his conversion attempt sailed wide and Leeds, to their credit, gained a foothold on proceedings.
Di Bernardo got them off the mark with a 16th-minute penalty before Jarvis missed one from distance 11 minutes later after Leeds hooker Vili Ma’asi was sinbinned for kicking the ball away in a ruck.
Jarvis, however, struck his second penalty seven minutes before the break to put Harlequins 11-3 ahead at the break.
Leeds responded again when Di Bernardo claimed a penalty in the 46th minute which cut the gap to five points but they were punished six minutes later when Care breached their line.
A period of sustained pressure allowed Care to collect possession from the back of a scrum and force his way over the line from close range.
Jarvis added the extras but once again Leeds produced a spirited response which saw them carve Quins apart down the right flank, when Leigh Hinton fed the overlapping Welding only for Ugo Monye to make an outstanding cover tackle.
Care then departed and returned the applause given to him by the Headingley faithful and six minutes later Evans forced his way over.
Jarvis converted and Harlequins claimed a bonus point in the last minute when Skinner barged his way over from point-blank range for a try which Jarvis converted as Leeds were subjected to their 16th defeat from 19 outings of a desperate season.