Steve So’oialo put his World Cup disappointments to one side by leading Harlequins to a third win of the Guinness Premiership season. The Samoan scrum-half scored a try in each half to kill off a Bristol fightback, with Simon Keogh also touching down and fly-half Chris Malone adding a drop-goal and three conversions.
David Lemi scored early on for Bristol – and a late Tom Arscott try nearly turned the game on its head, with Jason Strange kicking a conversion and penalty and David Hill a penalty.
Harlequins are up with the leaders after early-season wins over London Irish and Leeds and went into this game undefeated at The Stoop in 2007.
Samoa’s exit from the World Cup meant they were able to welcome back So’oialo and Tani Fuga, who displaced Aston Croall and Billy Fulton from the starting line-up.
Bristol had Alfie To’oala back in their squad, but the only change to their starting line-up saw Argentinian Mariano Sambucetti replace Nathan Budgett in the second row.
Number eight Dan Ward-Smith made a second start since recovering from the knee re-construction which kept him out of England’s World Cup campaign – and captain Matt Salter made his 100th Premiership appearance.
They were on the back foot for long spells in the first half, though, and conceded an opening try after 15 minutes – to a line-out drive patented on their own training ground.
The Quins pack drove in field from a line-out, and scrum-half So’oialo darted off the side to score near the posts – with Malone converting.
Bristol were back in the game at the end of the first quarter when Josh Taumololo cruised through a midfield gap, and Lemi grabbed his pass before bursting over on the left.
Malone responded with a neat cross-kick, Tom Guest catching and putting wing Keogh away on a 20 metre sprint to the line.
The Australian fly-half converted and added a 33rd minute drop-goal, before Hill responded with a penalty three minutes before the break which kept the visitors in the game at 17-8 down.
Bristol reshuffled at half-time – Strange taking over at fly-half, with the disappointing Hill moving to full-back, and they looked more comfortable as a result.
Strange added a penalty to keep them in the game but were punished 15 minutes from time by England Under-20s centre Jordan Turner-Hall.
The 19-year-old came up with an interception on his own 22 and made it to within five metres of the line before offloading for So’oialo to score – with Malone converting.
Arscott’s late try gave Quins a few jitters – but they finished on the front foot, with Malone’s missed penalty shot ending the game.