Danny Care demonstrated once again that he is determined to hang on to his place as England’s man in possession at scrum-half.
With England’s new attack coach Brian Smith watching from the stand, the innovative Care scored a try and created two more as Harlequins continued their bright start to the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP season with their second successive victory.
A week after creating the opening try for David Strettle in the victory over London rivals Saracens at Twickenham, Care did it again, prising open the Bristol defence after only 12 minutes at The Stoop before centre Jordan Turner-Hall scored the first try.
Full-back Mike Brown, Care himself, Tom Guest and Gonzalo Tiesi added further touchdowns to secure the bonus point and Quins were runaway winners despite Fijian fly-half Waisea Luveniyali landing only three conversions from nine kicking attempts.
Quick-thinking Care, facing the challenge of Leicester’s fit-again Harry Ellis when Martin Johnson names his first England team for the autumn internationals, wrong-footed the Bristol defence by taking a tap penalty in his own half, launching a kick deep into the visiting half and racing up to catch full-back Luke Arscott before he could find support. Quins piled in to turn the ball over and moved it out for Turner-Hall to go over unchallenged.
Twelve minutes later, Arscott was caught again before Harlequins scored their second try. This time he dithered too long instead of clearing a long kick from opposite number Brown and was scragged again before Brown burst over for his side’s second try.
Luveniyali’s miserable day with the boot prevented Harlequins from going in at half-time with a commanding lead.
The fly-half – a replacement for former All Black Nick Evans, ruled out with a knee injury suffered in last weekend’s 24-21 win over Saracens – was off-target with three straightforward penalty attempts as well as seeing his conversion attempt rebound from the upright following Turner-Hall’s touchdown.
Bristol fly-half Adrian Jarvis, a close-season signing from Quins who was denied the chance to pit his skills against his replacement by Evans’ absence, reduced the margin to 12-6 with two late first-half penalties.
The second resulted in the homes side being temporarily reduced to 14 men when left-wing Ugo Monye was yellow-carded for illegally preventing Bristol from re-cycling the ball after centre Neil Brew split the home defence with a diagonal run from the halfway line before being tackled by Luveniyali.
Luveniyali’s dire kicking display continued when he failed with a 51st minute penalty – his fifth miss from six attempts at goal – but Bristol lacked both the invention and the penetration to seriously trouble the home side.
Any hopes they had of turning the game round effectively ended when their Welsh international lock Robert Sidoli was sin-binned for preventing Care from releasing the ball.
This time Quins sensibly made Luveniyali kick for touch and, following the resulting lineout, Care scampered over for their third try in the 59th minute, leaving the fly-half a simple conversion for his second success from seven goes.
The bonus point was secured six minutes later when replacement back row forward Guest scored their fourth try and once again Care was the architect, scooping up a loose ball near the touchline to send Guest on his run to the line with Bristol’s defensive play again sadly lacking.
Bristol cracked again in the 75th minute when veteran former England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall, who had replaced Care minutes earlier, showed that he still has plenty to offer, making the break to supply the try-scoring pass for Tiesi.
Luveniyali landed the final conversion but, despite the convincing victory, his wayward kicking must be a source of concern for Harlequins.
Bristol finally managed a try in the dying seconds when David Lemi raced down the left-wing for a solo try, converted by Jarvis, but it was nothing more than a token reply.
The West Country side can at least look forward to the arrival of new Mathew Turner, the prolific try-scoring full-back or winger from Western Province in South Africa, at the end of this month and, on the evidence of this performance, they are going to need all the help they can get.