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By James Cunliffe at The Stoop
Friday, September 7, 2012
Aviva Premiership: Harlequins 40 London Welsh 3
Six scores including a brace apiece for Ugo Monye and George Robson saw Harlequins claim a bonus point victory to make it two wins out of two in the defence of their Aviva Premiership crown.
George Lowe and Ben Botica – on his league debut – added two more scores in the second half for a triumph that was rather more straightforward than their thrilling opening day contender for game of the season.
London Welsh simply had no answer for the champions, who barely broke a sweat but it was always going to be tough when the league fixtures handed them arguably the hardest introduction to life in England’s top tier. At least next week they won’t have to face either of the two play-off finalists.
For Quins the result over their Richmond neighbours saw them move to the familiar territory of the league’s summit by virtue of playing almost 24 hours earlier than their rivals.
Pop star Lady Gaga was the reason the clash was brought forward as Rugby HQ across the road was being readied for the ‘Poker Face’ songstress.
The national stadium was where Quins staged that biggest comeback in Premiership history last weekend to beat Wasps 42-40 but on their actual home turf they began in similar mood and for eight minutes Welsh were facing the threat of a rout.
Robson bulldozed over from close range following a speedy chip-and-chase break and Nick Evans slotted the extras.
The fly-half was the architect of that fabulous 20-minute blitz last week and again the Kiwi set about pulling his rivals apart.
It was his long pass that put in Monye for the first of his double and the England wing won’t come across an easier finish as the Exiles were exposed and he breezed over the line.
The visitors were struggling with high balls and had dropped two in quick succession but their only first half high point, in an attacking sense, was when, at the third attempt, fullback Tom Arscott snaffled a booming kick and exploited a gaping hole in Quins’ line to steal 20 yards.
It served to signal a period of consolidation for the newly promoted side, though much of that also seemed to represent the hosts taking their foot off the gas.
That relaxed attitude saw London claim their only points of the contest when Gordon Ross floated a simple penalty through the uprights.
But there was a huge gulf in class with ball in hand as the Premiership champions poked and prodded at the red wall with ferocious speed, both in the legs and hands. Once they found a weakness it was exploited and the third score came from another Evans kick from deep that caught Welsh at sixes and sevens and facing their own posts.
Quins were quicker to the bobbling ball and few sharp phases later Monye again waltzed over the line without an Exiles player placing a hand on him. Evans then stroked the conversion to give his side a comfortable if low 21-3 half time lead, considering the start they made.
Welsh hopes of a quick riposte after the interval were dimmed within minutes when Paulica Ion was sent to the bin and Quins made the most of their advantage, albeit at the second attempt.
They had numbers out wide but Mike Brown fluffed the final pass that would have set Monye through for his hat-trick. The half-back made a better fist of it soon after, jinking to within yards of the line before the ball was quickly recycled for Robson to push over. Evans maintained his perfect night with the boot to add two more points.
Quins then started to ease through the gears and Brown set off on one of his trademark runs complete with a chip and chase to get him over the last line of defence – that was until he was unceremoniously halted with a body check. However referee Luke Pearce played advantage and with the ball still dancing tantalisingly around the 22 and Lowe didn’t need to be asked twice as he gobbled up the opportunity to score out wide. Again Evans converted and it was to be his final action of a second successive man-of-the-match display as he was replaced to a standing ovation by Botica with 16 minutes remaining.
It wouldn’t be long before the summer signing had added to his new side’s total with virtually his first touch. First Welsh’s night worsened with five minutes remaining as Arscott saw yellow for a dangerous late tackle. The fullback had barely planted his weary body on the sin-bin bench before a shimmy saw Botica over the line to ensure Quins had notched up 82 points in their first two games of the season.
They will hardly have an easier time of it all year while, for Welsh, it will be a long, hard campaign.
Harlequins: 15. Mike Brown 14. Tom Williams 13. George Lowe 12. Jordan Turner-Hall (23. Matt Hopper) 11. Ugo Monye 10. Nick Evans (22. Ben Botica) 9. Karl Dickson (21. Danny Care) 1. Joe Marler (17. Darryl Marfo ) 2. Joe Gray (16. Rob Buchanan) 3. James Johnston (18.Kyle Sinckler) 4. Olly Kohn (19. Charlie Matthews) 5. George Robson 6. Maurie Fa’asavalu 7. Chris Robshaw (c) 8. Tom Guest (20. Nick Easter).
London Welsh: 15. Tom Arscott, 14. Phil Mackenzie, 13. Sonny Parker, 12. Hudson Tonga’uiha (Seb Jewell), 11. Joe Ajuwa, 10. Gordon Ross, 9. Tyson Keats (Nick Runciman), 1. Frank Montanella (17. Tom Bristow), 2. Neil Brigg (23. Nick Scott. )s, 3. Paulica Ion (16. Dan George), 4 Jonathan Mills (c) (19. Kirill Kulemin), 5. Matt Corker, 6. Daniel Browne (20. Alfie To’oala), 7. Mike Denbee, 8. Ed Jackson (18. Arthur Joly,)
Referee: Luke Pearce