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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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|Saturday 29th November|
|15:00||Leicester Tigers vs Wasps|
|16:30||Exeter vs Saracens|
|Sunday 30th November|
|13:00||London Irish vs Gloucester|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Northampton|
|15:15||Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks|
|Saturday 20th December|
|14:00||Sale vs Exeter|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Bath|
|15:00||Saracens vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Northampton vs Leicester|
|Sunday 21st December|
|14:00||Wasps vs London Irish|
|Friday 26th December|
|15:00||London Irish vs London Welsh|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:00||Sale vs Leicester|
|15:00||Bath vs Exeter|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Saracens|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Wasps|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Northampton|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|15:00||Exeter vs Gloucester|
|15:00||Saracens vs London Irish|
|15:00||Leicester vs Bath|
|15:00||Northampton vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 4th January|
|14:00||Wasps vs Sale|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:00||Sale vs Northampton|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Saracens|
|Friday 28th November|
|Bath 25 - 6 Harlequins|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester Tigers|
|Saracens 24 - 31 Northampton|
|Saturday 22nd November|
|London Irish 23 - 33 Bath|
|Exeter 31 - 15 Wasps|
|Friday 21st November|
|Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 Gloucester|
|Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Sunday 16th November|
|Wasps 71 - 7 London Welsh|
|Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 Saracens|
|Saturday 15th November|
|Bath 23 - 14 Newcastle Falcons|
|Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London Irish|
|Friday 14th November|
|Gloucester 15 - 22 Harlequins|
|Northampton 18 - 24 Exeter|
|Sunday 12th October|
|Wasps 29 - 22 Bath|
|Saturday 11th October|
|Northampton 43 - 10 Sale Sharks|
|Saracens 28 - 21 Gloucester|
|Exeter 44 - 24 London Irish|
|London Welsh 3 - 23 Newcastle|
|Friday 10th October|
|Leicester 22 - 16 Harlequins|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com