George Lowe’s try sealed the points as Harlequins inflicted a eighth consecutive defeat in all competitions on struggling London Irish as the Exiles went down 28-18.
Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans finished with 23 points from seven penalties and a conversion while opposite number Chris Malone scored all of London Irish's points. The Exiles remain fourth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table but they have not won since October 31 and their situation is starting to resemble a crisis for boss Toby Booth.
It was not as if London Irish did not have their chances but they failed to capitalise on Danny Care being sent to the sin-bin. They finished the game camped on the Harlequins line but spurned the chance to secure a losing bonus point by chasing the try. In the end, they left with nothing while Harlequins were celebrating their first victory in three attempts since moving their festive fixture to Twickenham.
Ugo Monye made his comeback for Harlequins from a foot injury that had kept him sidelined since the second game of the season. The England wing was industrious and won Harlequins a couple of penalties but this was not the day for a flying wing to shine.
The first half never really got going. The 74,212 spectators were more animated by the appearance of X Factor winner Matt Cardle than most of the rugby on show. After Evans had landed the first of six first-half penalties, Harlequins wing Tom Williams snatched an interception and streaked clear. Malone is not known for his speed but the veteran got his angles right and saved the try with a perfectly executed tackle, dragging Williams into touch.
Mike Brown briefly raised the crowd to their feet after picking a great line onto a pass from Evans, but his chip ahead was poor and he was taken out by Delon Armitage. From a subsequent penalty, Harlequins went for touch but the ball was knocked on at the lineout. Another mistake. Another stoppage.
It was the story of the first 40 minutes. Evans and Malone exchanged penalties as the two most attacking teams in the country refused to let each other play. Referee Andrew Small finally ran out of patience and sin-binned London Irish lock Bob Casey on the stroke of half-time for another breakdown infringement.
It was London Irish who raised the temperature after the interval, after Seilala Mapusua's delightful inside pass sent Topsy Ojo clear. Ojo had two men outside him but Williams tracked back well to pick off the pass. Harlequins led 21-15 but London Irish had all the momentum.
The Exiles hammered away at the try line with Alex Corbisiero, Steffon Armitage and Mapusua all knocked back by the Harlequins defence. Eventually the pressure told and Care was sin-binned for killing the ball. After a long debate with captain Clarke Dermody, Malone went for the points.
It was a decision Irish were left to regret. With 11 minutes remaining, Turner-Hall stabbed through a left-footed kick for Lowe to score the killer try. The Exiles spent the last 10 minutes camped on the Harlequins line, winning numerous penalties but referee Small refused to brandish another yellow card. London Irish could have kicked any of them to secure the losing bonus point but went for the try and left Twickenham empty-handed.