Worcester 20-24 Harlequins: Late Warriors fightback not enough as Quins hold on for the win
Harlequins earned a 15th straight league win over Worcester
The 2012 champions move up to third in the Aviva Premiership following away win
Late fightback earns the Warriors a crucial bonus point in their fight against relegation
Harlequins resisted a remarkable late fightback from Worcester to edge out the Warriors 24-20 at Sixways for a 15th-successive win over their west country hosts.
Quins flew out of the traps with Charlie Walker going in within two minutes, Nick Evans with the goal, before Tom Heathcote responded with a penalty on 15 minutes.
But the visitors extended their lead before the half hour mark, Luke Wallace scoring his side’s second try of the day, Evans converting ahead of a 33rd-minute penalty.
Walker’s second, also converted by Evans, put the visitors 24-3 ahead but tries from Marco Mama and Phil Dowson either side of a penalty try converted by Ryan Mills made it a contest in the closing stages.
However Quins held out to move up to third in the Premiership table, leaving 10th-placed Worcester to settle for a losing bonus point.
On a rain-soaked afternoon in the south-west, it was the visitors who started on top as Walker combined impressively with fellow wing man Ross Chisholm to cross down the left flank for the game’s first try.
Evans converted for a 7-0 lead, but Warriors’ Heathcote cut the gap to four points with a penalty, an incident which saw George Low pick up a yellow card.
But, undeterred, Quins rumbled on and the score remained the same as Low returned and they were quick to extend their advantage with 15 men back on the pitch.
It was flanker Wallace who got the visitors’ second try, the 25-year-old driving over following a trademark Quins rolling maul on 27 minutes.
Evans converted again to take himself past 1,500 career Premiership points before notching his first penalty of the day six minutes later for a 17-3 half-time lead.
Facing an already daunting 14-point margin, Worcester suffered yet another setback within minutes of the restart with Walker latching on to a clever grubber kick from the increasingly influential Danny Care to score.
Evans kept up his perfect record with the boot to make it 24-3 and leave the hosts with a 21-point mountain to climb with 43 minutes played.
But they launched a manful fightback in remaining time. Nigerian-born Mama kicked it off, scoring on the back of a rolling maul.
The hosts cranked up the pressure and were in again on the hour as they worked a penalty try which also saw Jamie Roberts sin binned.
Mills hammered over the extras to make it 15-24, and the hosts suddenly sensed an unlikely opportunity to turn the game on its’ head.
Though Quins looked set for some much-needed points after back-to-back penalties shortly after, it was Worcester who got the game’s next score as Number 8 Dowson was awarded a try after deliberation from the TMO.
However Warriors’ spot-kicking again proved wayward, and Jamie Roberts made a timely return to action for Quins as the visitors looked to steady the ship going into the final quarter.
And, despite the best efforts of Dean Ryan’s men, they held out, inflicting yet another defeat on Worcester. But the home side picked up a potentially crucial bonus point that sees them move six points clear of 11th-placed Newcastle and eight ahead of the relegation zone.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Harlequins: Chris Robshaw
The former England captain was in inspired form once again for his club. Operating at Number 6, the 29-year-old relished the battle in the middle of the pitch in poor conditions and got through a mountain of work before emerging from the pitch with a fully grey kit at full time – a sure sign of his toil.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 Phil Dowson (c), 7 Marco Mama, 6 Matt Cox, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Niall Annett, 1 Na’ama Leleimalefaga.
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Sam Betty, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Tom Biggs.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 George Lowe, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ross Chisholm, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care (c), 8 Nick Easter, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 James Horwill, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 Jack Clifford, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Harry Sloan.
Date: Sunday, January 3
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Nigel Carrick
TMO: Geoff Warren