Harlequins kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the Heineken Cup with a top-six Aviva Premiership Rugby finish by thrashing relegation-threatened Leeds Carnegie at Headingley.
Leeds now need at least a bonus point from their trip to Northampton to have any chance of staying up, and even then they require Newcastle to not take anything from their two remaining games against Bath.
Quins, who have an Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final at Munster to look forward to next week, can reach Europe’s premier club competition by winning the second-tier tournament, or by over-hauling Bath or London Irish in Aviva Premiership Rugby. They trail sixth-placed Bath by two points having played a game more and fifth-placed Irish by three points.
Harlequins set about the task with their customary gusto, but it was the determined defending of Leeds that held sway initially. Kearnan Myall was the mainstay of their stand, the Sale-bound flanker twice denying the Londoners the opening try, his latter move being a well-timed tackle on George Lowe to stop the centre scampering over the line.
Harlequins, however, were undeterred and they had their opening try midway through the first half. The effervescent Danny Care – a Leeds academy product – took a pass from his England team-mate Nick Easter and chipped Christian Lewis-Pratt before beating Lachlan MacKay in a race to touchdown.
After 22 minutes they had their second try, George Robson breaking into the 22 and offloading to Nick Evans, who played an inside pass to Joe Gray and the hooker raced over. Evans’ second conversion made it 14-0.
Adrian Jarvis missed two kicks at goal that would have reduced the arrears and they at last broke into the Harlequins 22 in the 35th minute. Henry Fa’afili was the catalyst, while a good break from Rhys Oakley kept the pressure on. But Leeds were guilty of handling errors, with Scott Mathie and MacKay both stripped of possession when good openings beckoned.
Despite showing flickers of life, any Leeds hopes were extinguished three minutes into the second half when Harlequins scored their third try through Jordan Turner-Hall, after quick hands from Care and Gonzalo Camacho. With Steve Thompson not coming out for the second half due to injury, and captain Marco Wentzel succumbing to the calf injury that nearly ruled him out moments later, the game was up for the Yorkshire club.
Lewis-Pratt took over kicking duties from Jarvis and got Leeds on the scoreboard after another MacKay break. But when presented with another chance, he hit the post. Care was not so forgiving with a drop goal and then moments later Easter sprinted underneath the posts to secure the bonus point for Quins.
Mike Brown ran in a 65-metre interception try from Michael Stephenson’s pass and Rory Clegg converted from the touchline to complete the rout.