Match Report: Harlequins v London Irish
Nick Evans struck four penalties as Harlequins moved up to eighth with a dogged victory over rivals London Irish at Twickenham Stoop.
The Quins No. 10 scored four successive penalties in the first half, before Danny Care went over for the opening try.
Shane Geraghty scored two penalties for the visitors, with James Short also notching a first half try for Glenn Delaney’s side.
Second half tries from Quins’ Matt Hopper and Irish’s Tom Fowlie ensured a tense final ten minutes that the hosts saw out for an important win.
Quins’ determination to claim their first league win since January was evident and Nick Evans got them off to a perfect start with a close-range penalty after two minutes.
The hosts extended their lead when Marland Yarde was tripped by Shane Geraghty and Evans converted his second penalty.
Glenn Delaney’s side were searching for their first win at The Stoop since 2009 and saw their pressure in the Quins’ 22 pay off when Shane Geraghty converted a penalty of his own.
Evans, who scored two penalties when the sides met on the first day of the season, added his third of the afternoon with twenty minutes gone.
It was proving to be a profitable afternoon for Geraghty and Evans as they both added another three points to make it 12-6.
The away side were certainly finding life tougher than they did last weekend when they crushed London Welsh 50-12 and were on the wrong side of the first try of the afternoon.
Matt Hopper's unselfish pass allowed Danny Care to touch down, but the visitors' response was swift. James Short flicked a dropping ball away from Ross Chisholm to bring his side back in it, with Geraghty converting.
Conor O’Shea’s side made a bright start to the second half and extended their lead when outside-centre Hopper held off a couple of challenges to touch-down in the left corner.
The chance of London Irish winning back-to-back league games for the first time this season looked even less likely as Evans’ added the conversion.
With Quins in the ascendancy, Charlie Matthews was forced off after picking up a head injury and was replaced by Netani Talei.
The away side had been struggling to crack their well-organised opponents in a tight second half before Tom Fowlie’s burst down the left resulted in a simple try.
With ten minutes remaining the home crowd grew anxious and the prospect of four straight Premiership defeats suddenly seemed possible.
Quins weathered a spell of London Irish possession before a succession of decisions in their favour started to ease the pressure.
The energy the visitors had found after Fowlie’s try seemed to be ebbing away as the game drifted towards a scrappy conclusion.
Quins used what experience they had to hold firm and see out a deserved victory over their rivals.
After the match Quins director of rugby Conor O’Shea said: “It got tense for the players, as you would expect. We’ll learn from it."
O’Shea maintained that, despite his side’s slump in form, he won’t start compromising on style of play.
“We carry more than anyone, we pass more than anyone, we offload more than anybody and hold on to the ball more than anybody. If that is a sin, to want to play rugby and not just kick-chase and be defensive, I’d prefer it like that.
“I think the game has a massive question to ask itself. Does it want to be all about kick-chasing and pressure or does it want to see teams play with ball in hand?”
Irish interim coach Glenn Delaney said: “The good thing about us is we have an ability to stay in the game.
“If we look at this last block of four games, we’ve been in every game. Against London Welsh we won comfortably, but in the games against the big clubs we’ve lost by six points or less, so we’re in the hunt.”