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Aviva Premiership: Harlequins dispatch London Irish at Twickenham Stoop
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Harlequins revived their Aviva Premiership play-off hopes by seeing off London Irish 23-9 in hard-fought clash at Twickenham Stoop.
England trio Chris Robshaw, Mike Brown and Care returned after being rested for last Saturday's rout by Saracens, but Quins still struggled to put away the Exiles.
It was only when Danny Care floated a superb scoring pass to wing Sam Smith in the 70th minute, establishing an 18-9 lead, that Irish were beaten.
Brown, the recently-crowned player of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations, crossed late on to give the scoreline an emphatic appearance that failed to tell the full story of the Exiles' effort.
The boot of full-back James O'Connor, who kicked three penalties, kept them in the hunt until Care spied his chance to deliver the killer blow.
Harlequins had Nick Evans to thank for building their initial lead with the former New Zealand fly-half scoring a solo try and landing two conversions and a penalty.
Quins edged an attritional first half that was light on points, despite the sunshine that greeted the London rivals.
Aside from a lively opening from Irish that saw Topsy Ojo pulled back just short of the whitewash by Smith, both try lines were rarely threatened.
Harlequins-bound wing Marland Yarde almost wriggled through, but Irish's promising start floundered as they conceded penalties at successive scrums.
The whitewash was breached for the only time in the first half when Evans chipped over the visiting defence, jumped to gather the ball and touched down.
Having converted the 12th-minute try, the former All Black then displayed his defensive steel with a thumping tackle on Fergus Mulchrone that flattened the centre.
Irish responded with their brightest spell of the half built around an opportunist counter-attack only for Yarde to scoop the ball into the air as they looked to go wide.
O'Connor and Evans exchanged penalties, but it was the Australian who was on target twice more - once after Tom Fowlie had smashed Matt Hopper into the turf - as Irish took control.
The pressure on Quins continued into the second half, but when O'Connor was offered the chance to kick his side into the lead for the first time, he missed the chance, brushing the right upright.
Yarde and Smith took it in turns to make eye-catching breaks, although the latter should have done more to find his only support runner Care.
The pendulum swung in Quins' favour when Yarde was sin-binned for tackling Jordan Turner-Hall without the ball, enabling Evans to land his second penalty.
The playmaker was enjoying a fine game as he charged down a clearance from O'Connor - the ball bounced safely through the dead ball area - and then raced through the Irish midfield.
Only a tap tackle by Shane Geraghty prevented hooker Dave Ward from crossing as Quins took control of the final quarter.
Irish were beginning to crack under the pressure and the decisive score finally arrived in the 70th minute when Care scooped the ball up from a scrum and floated a missed pass to Smith who dived over.
And with four minutes to go the Exiles' resistance was over as quick hands enabled Brown to slide over the whitewash.
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|Friday 6th March|
|19:45||Bath vs Sale Sharks|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs London Irish|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Saracens|
|15:00||Newcastle Falcons vs Leicester Tigers|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Saturday 28th March|
|15:00||London Irish vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Leicester vs Exeter|
|15:15||Saracens vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 29th March|
|14:00||Sale vs Gloucester|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Bath|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:45||Newcastle vs Bath|
|Saturday 11th April|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Gloucester|
|15:15||Saracens vs Leicester|
|Sunday 12th April|
|14:00||Exeter vs Northampton|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Sale|
|Saturday 25th April|
|14:00||Sale vs Harlequins|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Bath vs London Irish|
|15:00||Northampton vs Saracens|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Welsh|
|Sunday 26th April|
|14:00||Wasps vs Exeter|
|Saturday 9th May|
|14:00||Sale vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 1st March|
|Wasps 32 - 21 Gloucester|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Exeter 16 - 6 Bath|
|Saracens 22 - 17 Newcastle Falcons|
|Leicester Tigers 28 - 8 Sale Sharks|
|London Welsh 12 - 50 London Irish|
|Friday 27th February|
|Northampton 17 - 13 Harlequins|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|London Irish 6 - 12 Leicester Tigers|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Bath 13 - 21 Northampton|
|Harlequins 21 - 32 Exeter|
|Gloucester 48 - 10 London Welsh|
|Sale Sharks 14 - 10 Saracens|
|Friday 20th February|
|Newcastle 23 - 23 Wasps|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Wasps 37 - 6 Harlequins|
|London Welsh 12 - 52 Sale|
|Saracens 34 - 24 Bath|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Exeter 46 - 17 Newcastle|
|Friday 13th February|
|Leicester 18 - 15 Gloucester|
|Northampton 15 - 9 London Irish|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com