Friday, 23rd November 2018 @ 22:30
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Harlequins were left to rue a match where they had plenty of possession but were unable to make it count against a resolute Worcester Warriors side at Sixways.
Worcester out-scored the visitors by two tries to one to give their supporters a much-needed victory while Quins’ only consolation was to take another bonus point from the evening.
It was a first half of frustration for Harlequins as they came up against a dogged Worcester defence that would not be breached – and an attack that took the one clear opportunity they created.
Cadan Murley, making his Premiership debut, made a dangerous break in the fourth minute down the left wing and found Joe Marchant inside him but the move died when Marchant was forced into touch on the Worcester 22.
Quins were subsequently camped on the Worcester five-yard line for the next passage of play and earned a penalty in front of the posts, which Marcus Smith easily converted to make it 3-0, but despite plenty of the ball Quins could not find a way through with ball in hand for the next 35 minutes.
Worcester were back on level terms moments later when Quins failed to release in the tackle and Duncan Weir slotted over a simple kick and for the next 10 minutes the scores remained level.
First Quins, through Smith, and Worcester, through Jamie Shillcock (on for a Weir blood injury) were handed opportunities with penalties but both failed to take their chances from distance.
But, after 25 minutes, Worcester started to get a grip on the game and an impressive Matt Cox charge into the middle started a move that caused a bit of havoc in the Quins defence. Bryce Heem was the next to have a run at the visitors and a period of sustained pressure finally saw Quins concede a penalty 15 yards from their line. Weir, back on the field, kicked for touch on the Quins line and the resulting lineout and rolling maul saw Nick Schonert pile over for the try. Weir converted to make it 10-3 with seven minutes remaining in the half.
Smith was given another chance to get Quins back into it after 38 minutes with a penalty 35 yards out but this time his kick came up short. Worcester were then awarded a penalty of their own with the clock having gone dead and this time Chris Pennell made no mistake with a wonderful strike from the half-way line giving his side a 13-3 lead at half-time.
Head of Rugby Paul Gustard made two changes for the second half with Ben Glynn on for Matt Symons and James Lang on for Marcus Smith with Danny Care and Francis Saili joining the fray soon after. The changes in the back line certainly made the difference to Quins’ attacking intent but it was almost 20 minutes into the half before pressure was converted into points.
Eventually the try came with Worcester on the attack and Joe Marchant timing an interception to perfection and sprinting unchallenged from the half-way line. The simple conversion for Lang under the posts put Quins back in the game at 13-10.
Five minutes later Marchant appeared to have broken through again but Joe Marler was penalised for obstruction at the breakdown and from the resulting penalty Worcester found touch close to Harlequins’ line again. The resulting rolling maul again looked threatening, but they swiftly shipped the ball wide and, after a couple of phases, captain Ryan Mills went over the line.
The referee referred the try to the TMO as there were question marks over whether Mills had grounded the ball, but the try was awarded and, when Weir slotted over a tricky kick from the left, a Worcester victory was in sight.
Quins continued to plug away in the backs but could not find a way through and afterwards Gustard lamented their lack of penetration. “We had over 60 per cent possession but again we were too flat and with not enough width today,” he said. “It has been a problem for the past six or seven weeks and it is something we are going to work very hard to rectify in training next week.”
The resilience of Gustard’s team shone through however and, having seen a Lang penalty attempt go wide with seven minutes left on the clock, the Scottish international was given another chance in the last minute. This time he found the target and, despite a hugely disappointing defeat for the travelling Quins support, a bonus point was gained.