Kyle Sinckler’s brilliant solo score and Charlie Walker’s ten-minute brace sealed Harlequins’ bonus-point 32-25 win over London Irish, moving Conor O’Shea’s side back into Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top six and ensuring the Exiles will finish bottom.
Conor O’Shea’s side rejuvenated their hopes of Champions Cup rugby next season, but 12th-placed Irish gave them a real scare after coming back from 19-3 down to lead 25-22 with 15 minutes remaining.
Walker had crossed twice and Ross Chisholm added an exceptional third as O’Shea’s men opened up in perfect conditions at the Madejski Stadium, a Theo Brophy Clews penalty the only consolation for Tom Coventry’s side.
Irish refused to capitulate and roared back with three tries of their own to a solitary Ben Botica penalty – captain Luke Narraway touched down from the back of Exiles’ potent driving maul before Aseli Tikoirotuma and David Paice scored either side of half-time .
Brophy Clews’ penalty put Irish in a winning position, but a Nick Evans penalty and Sinckler’s try denied them a fairy-tale comeback.
Quins were clearly in no mood to hang around and after 11 minutes Danny Care found a rampaging Sam Twomey, the big second-row off-loading to George Lowe who shifted the ball for Walker to race over.
Botica added the extras for a 7-0 lead, but Brophy Clews pegged them back with a penalty two minutes later.
Walker was again on hand ten minutes later to collect Chisholm’s perfectly weighted grubber-kick and grab his second of the afternoon, which Botica again converted.
Barely a minute passed before O’Shea’s side cut loose again in the May sunshine, Lowe’s swerving outside break took him into space and his pass found an on-rushing Marland Yarde, the winger unselfishly moved the ball inside to Chisholm who galloped over, but Botica could not add the extras.
Irish were in danger of wilting, but their pack began to secure some possession and Brophy Clews worked them into the right areas as Quins’ penalty count began to sneak up.
Narraway was the man to cross after Harlequins finally gave way under the pressure of Irish’s tight driving mauls, but Brophy Clews’ conversion drifted wide.
Coventry’s side continued to fight their way back into contention and with the line in sight winger Tikoirotuma went close once before popping up again in midfield moments later and despite being hauled down, reached over a second Irish try.
Brophy Clews’ conversion brought them within four, but Botica stopped the rot with a penalty on the stroke of half-time for a 22-15 lead.
Neither side looked especially threatening as defence initially dominated the second-half and it was the hosts who broke the dead-lock with just over 20 minutes in the half.
They threw caution to the wind in opting for the corner from another Quins penalty and they were rewarded when veteran hooker Paice broke from another strong Exiles maul and bounced through several tackles to score his third try of the season. Brophy Clews’ conversion drew Irish level.
The young fly-half put Irish ahead for the first time with less than 15 remaining, but the hosts then gifted Nick Evans a penalty chance to level, which he duly took.
Paice’s try looked to have woken Quins from their slumber and as their off-loads started to stick, they attacked from deep.
Yarde made good ground down one touchline before the ball was pulled back in the other direction and as they began to sweep across field again, Lowe cut against the grain and found Sinckler – the replacement prop showed serious fleet of foot to round two defenders before applying the afterburners to go over from 35 metres. Evans added the extras.