Saturday, 19th March 2016 @ 18:00
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After a much needed win against Bath Rugby last weekend, Harlequins had to settle for a losing bonus point as they fell to defeat against Worcester Warriors 15-21 at The Stoop.
First half tries to South African duo Wynand Olivier and GJ van Velze gave the visitors a deserved 9-18 lead with the hosts having to settle for three Ben Botica penalties.
The second spell was a wild affair even though neither side would cross the whitewash. Botica would kick two more penalties, while Tom Heathcote would add another for Worcester.
In the final minute Harlequins staged one final attack from their own goal line but it was not enough as they fell 15-21, with only a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.
Harlequins came into the match knowing a win would send them back into the top four (even if only temporarily) with their Six Nations cavalry due to return next week.
The home side got off to a bright start as Botica kicked a penalty to give them a 3-0 lead after as many minutes.
Heathcote would kick two early penalties of his own, and Botica another, as the sides were level at 6-6 with a quarter of the match gone.
In the 21st minute Olivier stretched over to score after a long spell of attack from the visitors, despite some staunch, hard-hitting defence from Harlequins. Heathcote missed the extras but Worcester would lead 6-11.
On the half hour mark Worcester would cross again but this time in more controversial circumstances.
Near the halfway line Harlequins wing Henry Cheeseman was dragged into touch as he tried to flick the ball back into play. The assistant referee initially raised his flag and while the Harlequins players froze GJ van Valze picked the ball up and ran in to score.
The TMO wasn’t consulted and Heathcote would take the conversion quickly, as his side suddenly led 6-18.
Botica closed the gap with this third penalty but Harlequins went into the break trailing 9-18.
The second half got off to a high tempo start as both side’s defence wore down from the bruising enconter. Botica missed a long range penalty that would have closed the gap to six points but Harlequins had momentum and were on the attack.
In the 55th minute Dave Ward made a break through the middle of the park but the ball was turned over and only a Charlie Walker tackle saved a try at the other end.
It wasn’t until the 66th minute that their endeavour would pay off as back-to-back penalties led to a successful Botica kick, as he cut the lead to 12-18.
The Londoners defence would be tested for the remaining quarter of an hour as Worcester began dominating the territory. Luke Wallace would get them out of trouble on a handful of occasions with big turnovers.
In the 72nd minute Worcester would extend their lead past the crucial seven-point margin with a third penalty, but Botica striked back two minutes later with one of his own.
With five minutes to go it was all to play for as Harlequins trailed just 15-21. The crowd were getting restless though as the home side could not find any momentum and mistakes repeatedly cost them.
There would be late drama as Worcester were rewarded with a straight forward penalty in the 79th minute but Heathcote put the kick wide and Quins looked to run it from their own goal line.
They managed to string together a number of phases until a knock on saw Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys blow his whistle on proceedings. The final score 15-21 giving Harlequins a losing bonus point but nothing more.
Harlequins next travel to Northampton Saints to take on a top four rival in what could be a make or break match in their quest to reach the top four. With the Six Nations wrapping up this weekend Harlequins will have a number of senior players back in contention for starting places for the encounter.