Nick Evans waved goodbye to the Harlequins faithful with a style that has become the hallmark of his nine years in south-west London, orchestrating a victory that, while tempered by Danny Care’s injury scare, boosts their hopes of a top-six finish and a seat at Europe’s top table.
Care went off clutching his side and, if his place on England’s summer tour to Argentina is in doubt, he could well be replaced by his opposite number on the night, Dan Robson, who scored a fine try on what was otherwise a difficult evening for Wasps.
Robson was overlooked by Eddie Jones for that tour but the Australian was in the crowd here to watch him sparkle in the first half.
Quins, and Evans in particular, were not to be denied, however. The 36-year-old fly-half retires at the end of the season and scored 22 points on his final Premiership appearance at The Stoop.
“I think the word legend is overused but Nick is a legend at Harlequins. There are very few of those but he’s one. He looked like he could have played until midnight,” said Harlequins’ director of rugby, John Kingston, who hopes to have Care available in a probable shootout for sixth place at Northampton next weekend. “But we’ve got to back that up. To get into the Champions Cup would be a huge feat.”
Wasps, meanwhile, were disappointing having won their previous five league matches – none more so than their solitary British & Irish Lion, Elliot Daly. He was far from alone but a series of missed tackles summed up an off-night for the league leaders, who are still not assured of a top-two finish and host Saracens next weekend.
“We dust ourselves off, we didn’t play well but we’ve got to work hard and hopefully get the result next week,” said Wasps’ director of rugby, Dai Young. “I didn’t think we had much of a cutting edge. Our big players need to step up next week.”
The match had a breathless opening, not without its errors or niggle. One hit from Marland Yarde on Josh Bassett prompted both sides to pile in while Christian Wade even squared up to Joe Marler, much to the amusement of the crowd. If Jones has concerns about Care, however, he will be pleased with how Joe Marchant acquitted himself. The outside-centre was the standout performer of the first half, once wriggling past Daly and soon after almost creating a try for Yarde.
Evans had opened the scoring with a penalty before Jimmy Gopperth’s break set up Robson’s score, Wasps’ Kiwi fly-half converting. Harlequins regrouped and trimmed the deficit to one with another Evans penalty after a high tackle from Kearnan Myall but it was back to four points when Gopperth was again on target from the tee.
Quins were ahead four minutes into the second half when Tim Visser raced clear down the left after Kurtley Beale had failed to pick off an intercept, leaving Chris Robshaw with space to gallop into. Evans converted for a 13-10 lead. The New Zealander added another penalty following a burst from Yarde and Harlequins’ lead was nine when Evans struck again after Willie le Roux was sent to the sin-bin for taking Marchant out in the air.
Gopperth brought Wasps back to within a score after Kyle Sinckler, conspicuous in the loose throughout, had infringed but Evans added a further two penalties – the second resulting in a yellow card for Joe Launchbury – before Marchant capped his fine showing with a deserved try late on..
Harlequins Brown; Yarde, Marchant, Roberts (Alofa, 74), Visser; Evans (Swiel, 79), Care (capt; Dickson 27); Marler (Lambert, 77), Buchanan (Gray, 63), Sinckler (Collier, 63), Matthews, Horwill (Merrick, 70), Robshaw, Wallace, Luamanu (Ward, 77).
Tries Visser, Marchant Con Evans 2 Pens Evans 6.
Wasps Le Roux; Wade, Daly (Leiua, 79), Beale, Bassett (Cipriani, 66); Gopperth, Robson (Simpson, 66); Mullan (McIntyre, 66), Taylor (Cruse, 70), Swainston (Cooper-Woolley, 48), Launchbury (capt), Myall (Rowlands, 57), Haskell, Young (Hughes, 62), Thompson.
Try Robson Con Gopperth Pens Gopperth 2
Referee W Barnes Attendance 14,800