Harlequins’ director of rugby John Kingston hailed Nick Evans as “a legend” after the former All Blacks fly-half said farewell to The Stoop by kicking 22 points to keep them in the hunt for European Champions Cup rugby next season.
It was an emotional night for Evans, who is retiring at the end of the season. He was given the honour of leading out Harlequins before kick-off and received a standing ovation when he was substituted a minute before the final whistle having bagged the man of the match award.
Otherwise it was a normal evening for Evans, Harlequins’ record points scorer in the Premiership. The 36-year-old punished Wasps for their unusually poor discipline by kicking six penalties and he also converted second-half tries from Tim Visser and the impressive Joe Marchant.
“I said when Nick announced that he was retiring that he was a legend,” Kingston said. “I think that word is over-used but he is a legend at Harlequins rugby football club. There are very few of those, but he is one.
“He has great selflessness. So often you see world-class players – which is what he is – who perhaps don’t always do the small things right. But he does it week in, week out. It’s a pleasure to work with him.”
Thanks to Evans, Harlequins now face a shoot-out for sixth place with Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens next Saturday to decide the final automatic qualification place for the Champions Cup.
Whether England scrum-half Danny Care will be fit to face the Saints is uncertain. He suffered a muscle injury in his abdomen/hip area and left the field after 26 minutes, which allowed Karl Dickson, another player playing his last match at The Stoop, to make an earlier-than-expected appearance.
“He was struggling to run it off so he has probably stretched it maybe pulled it, I don’t know at this stage” Kingston said. “It’s eight days to the next game so we will have to see how he scrubs up on Monday.”
Care’s injury will also be monitored by England coach Eddie Jones, who named him in the squad to tour Argentina in the summer. The party meet on May 29 ahead and will play two Tests in June.
Mike Brown and Chris Robshaw, two Harlequins players who were overlooked by Warren Gatland for the British and Irish Lions trip to New Zealand, made significant contributions here.
Brown was a constant menace in attack and Robshaw created Visser’s try, after a failed interception attempt from Kurtley Beale, with an angled run and precise pass.
But it was Evans who kept Harlequins in the game in the first half and who built their lead after the break with a familiar display of accurate kicking. His only miss came in the first half from far out on the right of the pitch.
Wasps appeared comfortable at the interval after Jimmy Gopperth’s superb break from defence set up Dan Robson for their try. But they crumpled in the second half and they may now need to beat Saracens at the Ricoh Arena next Saturday to guarantee a home semi-final.
“I felt pretty comfortable going into half-time to be honest,” said Wasps director of rugby, Dai Young. I was pretty comfortable with our first-half performance although we weren’t playing as well as we like to play.
“I thought we had a couple more gears in the second half. The two key words I said at half-time were patience and composure in both attack and defence. I felt we lacked both, really. When we had the ball we tried to do something within the first two or three phases, little kicks over the top or through. We didn’t get the bounce of the ball and we didn’t build enough pressure.”
Nick Evans interview
"I did my homework and I loved the ambition Dean Richards showed when he asked me to join. I've blinked and nine years later I'm still here."
Full-time Harlequins 32-13 Wasps
Harlequins secure the restart and smash into touch. That has to be their best performance of the season. Nick Evans was superb. Wasps will be slightly worried.
79 mins | Try, Joe Marchant | Harlequins 32-13 Wasps
Another try from a turnover. Wasps won the ball back but then Dave Ward stepped through to steal a turnover and Joe Marchant was in support. Evans kicks the conversion and then comes off to a fantastic ovation. He gets hugs from Nick Easter, James Horwill and John Kingston. A lovely moment.
Collier racks up another carry after a strong Harlequins maul and the hosts look comfortable in possession.
Nick Evans is named BT's official man of the match by Austin Healey. It was a no-brainer. He's been brilliant.
Nick Evans kicks for touch. Lineout close to halfway for Harlequins.
Brown looked hugely pumped up after that penalty. Fairly amusing moment as it appeared he was going to hit Marland Yarde.
Wasps trying to find a spark now, with Cipriani getting his hands on the ball from first receiver. Guy Thompson and Haskell get Harlequins into the 22 but Brown jackals to win a penalty.
75 mins | Penalty, Nick Evans | Harlequins 25-13
A sixth penalty for Evans puts the hosts further in front.
74 mins | Yellow card, Joe Launchbury
Surely that wins it for Harlequins. Wasps scramble back to fell Marchant inches short of the line but Launchbury is pinged for killing the ball. He's emptied himself in another good performance, but that is an easy decision for Barnes.
Another carry for Gray, and then Marchant slips through to within three metres...
The Harlequins maul foes not make any tracks but Evans links with Joe Gray to get in behind Wasps. Collier trucks up now, and Brown cuts back on a switch...
Great box-kick from Karl Dickson. Beale spills and the ball hits a Wasps player in an offside position. Evans goes for touch.
Tommy Taylor is replaced by Tom Cruse at hooker for Wasps.
70 mins | Penalty, Nick Evans | Harlequins 22-13 Wasps
Another accurate strike from Evans.
Mistake from the Wasps backline, who creep offside. Wayne Barnes spies the infringement, and Evans will go for goal.
Le Roux return
Willie Le Roux is back with us after serving his 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Visser goes close on the left. The Scottish winger throws an offload back in-field. Wasps collect but clear to touch, so it's another Harlequins lineout.
Simpson puts Gopperth under pressure and the fly-half kicks into touch on the full. Simpson passed it back into the 22, so Harlequins have a threatening lineout.
Joe Simpson and Danny Cipriani are on for Wasps, Cipriani coming on for Josh Bassett, which means a backline re-jig.
Evans hits a cross-kick now, and Yarde takes on the right wing but just crosses the touchline.
Evans goes to touch and Harlequins go off the top from the lineout. Evans dictates a few phases before Harlequins kick it away. Wasps clear and Harlequins come again.
Nathan Hughes is on for Wasps. he's just hit Brown hard and helped win a turnover, but Joe Marler clasps onto the ball on the floor to win a penalty.
63 mins | Penalty, Jimmy Gopperth | Harlequins 19-13 Wasps
Gopperth makes it and Wasps are within a score. Sinckler and Buchanan are off for Harlequins, replaced by Will Collier and Joe Gray.
The visitors win a penalty now, and Gopperth will look to reduce Wasps' deficit.
Wasps go for touch and their maul gathers some impetus...
Charlie Matthews takes the lineout. Wasps replacement Will Rowlands gives away a needless penalty but Kyle Sinckler chucks him over and the penalty is reversed.
Thomposn is put under pressure by a strong Harlequins kick-chase but Wasps retain the ball and Robson slides a kick into touch close to the Harlequins 22.
Gopperth goes long with the kick, Visser takes and Evans clears.
58 mins | Penalty, Nick Evans | Harlequins 19-10 Wasps
58 mins | Yellow card, Willie Le Roux
Easy decision for Wayne Barnes. Thankfully, Marchant is OK.
Harlequins' lineout maul edges forward towards the Wasps 10-metre line. And we have a flashpoint. Karl Dickson stabbed a kick over, Marchant jumped to catch and was up-ended by Willie Le Roux.
Luke Wallace remains one of the best breakdown operators in the Premiership. He latches onto Tommy Taylor to win a penalty.
The visitors go for touch and are into the Harlequins 22...
Fantastic show, step and go from Evans, but Wasps scramble back to win a penalty on the deck.
Rob Buchanan breaks away from a maul and trundles up to halfway. Harlequins move the ball right and Daly makes a good tackle on Marchant, encouraging Brown to kick deep. A bout of kick-tennis ensues, and Harlequins will have a lineout close to halfway.
Harlequins have squandered a few winning positions this season, so they will be mightily frustrated if this one slips away now. We are into the final half hour.
52 mins | Penalty, Nick Evans | Harlequins 16-10 Wasps
Good strike from Evans. The New Zealander is rolling back the years.
Brown links with Yarde, who charges over halfway and finds Roberts. The Welshman is tackled high, so Evans will kick for the posts.
Jamie Roberts punches a big hole and Horwill shunts forward but another turnover allows Daly to clear.
It's a Harlequins scrum on the Wasps 22.
Phil Swainston is off for Wasps, replaced by Jake Cooper-Woolley.
Here is Robshaw bursting through to find Visser for Harlequins' try. He does very well to fix Wasps' back-field defenders.
Mistake from Gopperth, who hits the restart into touch on the full.
44 mins | Try, Tim Visser | Harlequins 13-10 Wasps
That try sums up this game. After a series of turnovers, Kurtley Beale shoots out of the Wasps defensive line looking for an interception. He misses the ball and Robshaw is completely in the clear. The England flanker stays calm and releases Visser, who glides into the left corner. Evans hits the conversion.
Wasps on the verge of Harlequins' 22 again. Gopperth grubbers through and Daly gets the ball via a ricochet before chipping through himself. It is too long, though, and Brown dots down for a 22.
Wasps have an early lineout and Guy Thompson trucks into the Harlequins 22. James Haskell gets a run as well but the attack breaks down when Daly cannot hold Beale's pass.
Tim Visser takes Gopperth's restart but is immediately tackled by Daly.
Wasps have spilled back out onto the playing surface, followed by Harlequins. We'll be back underway shortly.
Joe Marchant has had another eye-catching outing in the Harlequins midfield.
Here is Dan Robson sliding in for the only try so far. He can count himself extremely unlucky not to be touring with England this summer.
Wasps take Evans' restart and Robson pokes into touch. A stop-start half. Neither side will be overly happy.
39 mins | Penalty, Jimmy Gopperth | Harlequins 6-10 Wasps
Gopperth will go for goal from 42 metres. He nails it.
Wade springs to take Brown's high kick and Le Roux has a run. Wasps win a penalty as Sinckler blocks Gopperth, who had chipped through.
This one fades to the left of the posts from Evans.
Harlequins spread the ball right from the kick-off. They get past halfway through Roberts and Luamanu and win another breakdown penalty.
35 mins | Penalty, Nick Evans | Harlequins 6-7 Wasps
Evans adds another three
"Barnesy, find replacement nine Quins and tell him why he had to play that ball away. He's getting frustrated."
Another gem from the ref mic, this time coming from the touch-judge.
Harlequins come again. They've had the vast majority of possession, but have managed little penetration. Myall tackles Matthews high now, and Harlequins have a penalty.
Harlequins look to be edging forwards but the ball squirts out the back and Robson slices into touch.
Harlequins' backline should really fancy working something off this scrum.
We have a re-set as the set piece crumbles first time around.
Taylor hits Myall but guess what? It's another turnover. Robshaw was burrowing away in the middle of the maul and held the ball above the ground.
Rob Buchanan finds Charlie Matthews and the Harlequins maul creaks forward...
...it's been driven into touch. Wasps have the throw five metres from their line.
Harlequins eke out a scrum penalty. Joe Launchbury, having another quietly excellent game, gets back to dive on a grubber but we will come back for the set piece offence and Evans will go to the corner.
Now Christian Wade drops a straightforward pass from Daly. It's a turnover-fest of handling errors early on, unfortunately.
Danny Care is off injured, replaced by Karl Dickson. The hosts recover the restart but lose it again.
25 mins | Try, Dan Robson | Harlequins 3-7 Wasps
Out of nothing. That's what Wasps do. Brown hit and up and under, Gopperth danced past Sinckler and broke free. Dan Robson, left out of England's squad to tour Argentina by Eddie Jones, follows up to score. He is very good at that supporting line. Gopperth adds the extras.
Evans is enjoying some very nice touches. The Stoop purrs as he takes a high ball.
Beale is prominent as Wasps seem to find fluency. However, the Australian is stopped by Roberts and there is another turnover.
Wayne Barnes walks the penalty forwards 10 metres after Brown stops Robson from taking it.
Again the ball has gone loose. Le Roux pelts it back. He does not find touch but Gopperth collars Care and Wasps win the penalty.
Horwill is the target and Harlequins go off the top. Marchant takes on Daly and then Marler and Sinckler hit contact.
Wasps keep the ball in hand and Daly gets another carry before Launchbury trucks it up. Dan Robson goes long and Brown, who has already made seven carries, runs it back. He is tackled high and Harlequins have a penalty. Evans goes to the corner again.
This scrum is collapses and Harlequins comes into midfield. Yarde runs hard before Visser and Brown get touches on the left. Then it is Sinckler and Buchanan who make ground. Harlequins are on the front foot but Evans swings the ball wide and Robshaw cannot hold on.
Lots of movement in that scrum. We'll have a re-set, but the touch-judges are keeping a close eye on Kyle Sinckler.
We will start again with a Harlequins scrum on the Wasps 10-metre line. It's been a messy opening.
Wade collects the 22 and Wasps spread the ball left through Beale. They've lost the ball though. Harlequins are scrapping very hard at the breakdown. Care boots clear and Le Roux spills.
Gopperth has drawn his kick to the left from around 40 metres out. Harlequins still lead.
A shallow restart from Gopperth allows them to recover possession. Willie Le Roux makes a half-break and Harlequins infringe at the breakdown. It was Robshaw who rushed through illegally. Joe Marler and Christian Wade share a joke. Gopperth is going for goal now.
11 mins | Penalty, Nick Evans | Harlequins 3-0 Wasps
Wasps concede a penalty from the lineout but Harlequins want a try from the advantage. They get within five before Barnes brings play back. The offence was Kearnan Myall, who took out the Harlequins lifter. Evans is going for goal.
Matt Luamanu carries hard into midfield and Evans links with Brown as Christian Wade rushes up. Gorgeous pass. Harlequins win the breakdown penalty and Evans goes to the corner.
Tommy Taylor misses his man. Care goes to the air and Marland Yarde smashes Josh Bassett.
Marchant spears a kick down-field but it's gone into touch on the full. Wasps lineout on the Harlequins 22.
It's great listening to the referee mic at scrums.
"Great discipline, Sink!" shouts James Horwill.
Wasps clear into touch. It'll be a Harlequins lineout between their 10-metre line and 22.
Now Luke Wallace nabs a turnover. Marchant and Brown link on the left, then the attack breaks down on the edge of the Wasps 22. We have our first scrum.
Wasps manage to relieve pressure with another ruck turnover but the ball is still in play. It's been a breathless start.
Care slides a grubber through but Wasps recover and Daly clears into touch. And we are off again, Quins spreading the ball left from the lineout.
Gopperth pokes down-field to Brown and Robshaw trucks up to halfway before Joe Marchant surges up to the Wasps 22.
A first carry for Kyle Sinckler as Harlequins get into their phase play but Kurtley Beale launches into a counter-ruck and Wasps have an early turnover.
Nick Evans led Harlequins out to big volume and he is going to get us underway.
Referee Wayne Barnes blows his whistle and Evans goes to the right. That man Joe launchbury hauls it in, Jimmy Gopperth goes to the air and Mike Brown runs it back.
Head to heads
Chris Robshaw v James Haskell
Danny Care v Dan Robson
Nick Evans v Jimmy Gopperth
Joe Marchant v Elliot Daly
And loads more. This will be very entertaining.
A reminder of who Harlequins' match-day 23:
And news of a chance for Wasps, with Kearnan Myall coming in to start at lock in place of Matt Symons, who is ill.
5 minutes to go
Huge congratulations to this team, who beat Bristol Ladies in last weekend's tightly-contested final.
The League and Cup double winning Aylesford Bulls Ladies are at The Stoop for a lap of honour! Congratulations! pic.twitter.com/ImP7V4O7q3
— Harlequins �� (@Harlequins) April 28, 2017
"He does the one-percent things"
Wasps centre Kyle Eastmond is BT Sport's guest pundit tonight and he is gushing about the unglamorous details that Daly gets right - chasing kicks and things like that. Can he sneak into the Lions Test side? Why not.
Agony and ecstasy
Elliot Daly is telling Nick Mullins about watching the British and Irish Lions squad announcement with his mate Joe Launchbury.
They took themselves off away from the other Wasps players to catch it all on their phones. Read the full story here.
15 minutes to go
John Kingston is speaking to BT Sport has told us the emotional weight of tonight's game for Harlequins, given Nick Evans' imminent retirement. It's going to be strange not to have the All Black around, he concedes.
20 minutes to go
Leave your predictions in the comments section at the bottom of this page. Surely we are in for a helter-skelter, high-scoring contest? (Cue 6-6 draw).
150 years of Harlequins
Some more cool work from Harlequins. Drink this in.
150 years of history. We're just getting started... pic.twitter.com/iVHhVhEDWX
— Harlequins �� (@Harlequins) April 28, 2017
Launchbury left out
Warren Gatland said it was among the toughest decisions he made, and Wasps were dumbfounded at Joe Launchbury's omission from the British and Irish Lions squad.
The lock was certainly exceptional during England's Six Nations campaign. He is a tireless grafter, as these statistics - pitted against those of Lions Iain Henderson and Courtney Lawes - demonstrate.
Danny Care - new hair
Danny Care is is talking to Austin Healey out on the pitch during the warm-ups. As always, he is speaking well and making some nice points, especially about Nick Evans...but he has also had his hair dyed. Austin isn't sure about it.
Check these out from BT Sport commentator Nick Mullins.
2/3 Another try for Christian Wade will equal a 19-year-old Premiership record - Dominic Chapman's 17 for Richmond in the 97/98 season...
— Nick Mullins (@andNickMullins) April 28, 2017
— Nick Mullins (@andNickMullins) April 28, 2017
The shake-up for semi-finals is very interesting as well. A home fixture, you feel, would be so important...as would avoiding Saracens, who are simply on fire.
A reminder of how the Premiership table stacks up. Bristol are relegated pending the results of the Championship play-offs - if either Doncaster or Ealing win them, Bristol stay in the top flight due to venue regulations.
Elsewhere, the scrap for fourth is still on, as is the battle for sixth.
It's a dry evening in Twickenham and two attack-minded sides will be able to play with width and pace.
Here's a smiling Kurtley Beale walking towards the changing room.
50 minutes to go
Less than an hour until kick-off now. It might get emotional.
— Sally Evans (@sallymac30) April 28, 2017
Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler are the only Harlequins representatives in the 41-man British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand as things stand.
Just before that announcement, we took a look at how the props performed against Exeter. In short, the quality of their contributions stands out.
Talented Mr Daly
So often we hear of players becoming a victim of their versatility. So far, Elliot Daly's ability to flit across a backline has helped his career.
It will be fascinating to see where Warren Gatland deploys him this summer. Dan Schofield chatted to the 24 year-old this week.
So long, Snapper
This is a nice touch from the Harlequins media team.
— Harlequins �� (@Harlequins) April 28, 2017
Our very own Mick Cleary sat down with Nick Evans earlier this week. You can read the interview here.
As an aside, Evans will be on the touchline tomorrow coaching Wimbledon in what should be a compelling National Three promotion play-off clash against Dings Crusaders. Get yourself down to Beverley Meads if you are in the area.
They've scored 83 tries in 20 Premiership matches, seven more than next highest-scorers Exeter Chiefs. And the great entertainers have parked up at the Twickenham Stoop.
— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) April 28, 2017
All you need to know
What is it?
Kicking off the penultimate round of regular season action in the Aviva Premiership, table-toppers Wasps travel to seventh-placed Harlequins. The visitors are hoping to stay at the summit to avoid either Saracens or Exeter Chiefs in the play-off semi-final, while the hosts are fighting for sixth and automatic Champions Cup qualification
What time is kick-off?
The game gets underway at 7.45pm.
What TV channel is it on?
BT Sport 1.
What is the team news?
Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans starts for what will be his final match at the Twickenham Stoop. Meanwhile, British and Irish Lions props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler are also included in a side brimming with international experience. On the bench is scrum-half Karl Dickson, also making a Stoop farewell.
Harlequins: 15. Mike Brown, 14. Marland Yarde, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Jamie Roberts, 11. Tim Visser, 10. Nick Evans, 9. Danny Care (captain); 1. Joe Marler, 2. Rob Buchanan, 3. Kyle Sinckler, 4. Charlie Matthews, 5. James Horwill, 6. Chris Robshaw, 7. Luke Wallace, 8. Mat Luamanu.
Replacements: 16. Joe Gray, 17. Mark Lambert, 18. Will Collier, 19. George Merrick, 20. Dave Ward, 21. Karl Dickson, 22. Tim Swiel, 23. Alofa Alofa.
For Wasps, British and Irish Lion Elliot Daly wears 13. Joe Launchbury, arguably the most unfortunate of the high-profile internationals to be omitted from by Warren Gatland, captains. As always, the backline is stacked with electric runners including Christian Wade and Kurtley Beale.
Wasps: 15. Willie Le Roux, 14. Christian Wade, 13. Elliot Daly, 12. Kurtley Beale, 11. Josh Bassett, 10. Jimmy Gopperth, 9. Dan Robson; 1. Matt Mullan, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Phil Swainston, 4. Joe Launchbury (captain), 5. Matt Symons, 6. James Haskell, 7. Thomas Young, 8. Guy Thompson.
Replacements: 16. Tom Cruse, 17. Simon McIntyre, 18. Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19. Kearnan Myall, 20. Nathan Hughes, 21. Joe Simpson, 22. Danny Cipriani, 23. Alapati Leiua.
What are they saying?
Nick Evans’ parents John and Robyn are flying over to watch tonight, but the All Black is prioritising a team performance over personal platitudes.
“Champions Cup rugby next season is what we want and to get that we will almost certainly have to beat Wasps. They are still a [London] rival and there is a lot riding on the outcome. It will be an emotional night but the key thing is that there is a job to be done.”
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young, always a straight-talker, has been left bemused by how some of his players have been left out of the Lions and England touring squads.
“I’m surprised for a team that is sitting at the top, how few representative players we’ve got. You look at the Premiership teams below us, most of them have got more representatives on the Lions and England.”
What are the odds?
SkyBet have Wasps as 4/6 favourites with Harlequins at 11/10. A draw is 20/1.
What is our prediction?
A high-scoring game featuring over 50 points in total, with Wasps to end victorious.