Premiership: Harlequins 22-6 Exeter Chiefs
Harlequins (19) 22
- Evans, Walker, Brown
- Evans 2
Exeter (3) 6
- Steenson 2
Harlequins produced a solid performance to brush aside Exeter at Twickenham.
Nick Evans' try inside the opening three minutes set the tone for Quins, and further well-taken scores by Charlie Walker and Mike Brown helped them to a 19-3 lead at half-time.
Exeter's Gareth Steenson kicked his second penalty after the break to go second on the Chiefs' all-time list of points scorers in league rugby.
But a further kick from Evans wrapped up a comfortable win for Quins.
Playing in their sixth annual festive fixture at Twickenham, watched by a crowd of 74,827, Conor O'Shea's side hit the front early from a turnover, the hosts moving the ball across the pitch and, with Exeter outnumbered down their right flank, sending Evans over with ease.
Steenson's penalty got the visitors off the mark with less than 10 minutes played before Evans, having earlier converted his own try, missed two relatively straightforward chances with the boot for Harlequins.
It was not long, however, before they extended their lead - and they did so in style.
A sweeping move saw the ball moved from left to right, and Matt Hopper timed his pass to perfection to allow Walker to step inside past Tom Johnson's tackle and dive over, but Evans missed his third successive kick by failing with the conversion.
The score left Exeter nine points behind, and they also had Jack Nowell sent to the sin bin after the referee yellow-carded him for a tip-tackle on Hopper.
With a man extra, Harlequins put the game to bed on the stroke of half-time, with the try again coming on the counter.
Having turned the ball over on halfway, Danny Care broke in trademark fashion and teed up England international team-mate Brown to go over beneath the posts. This time Evans was successful with the conversion.
Steenson kicked his landmark second penalty of the match early in the second period, but it was the hosts that continued to do the majority of the attacking.
However, they were left to rue several missed opportunities as they went in search of a bonus point, with full-back Brown the culprit on a couple of occasions.
Exeter would have replaced Harlequins in fourth had they won on their first visit to Twickenham as a Premiership club, but Evans' penalty was all they had to show for their second-half pressure.
VIEW FROM THE DRESSING ROOM
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea:
"We'll have emotional highs when we're playing well and emotional lows when we lose games and are written off, which will happen during the run-in.
"This will be the tightest Premiership ever. And that was a very, very big win for us.
"It would have been lovely to get the bonus point and it's frustrating we didn't because we created a huge amount. But we played some magnificent rugby and, if we play like that, we'll be tough to play.
"Our aim after the difficult start to the season we had was to be in the top four at the halfway stage, which we are. We will get stronger and stronger and give it a good crack."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon:
"In hindsight, this result was probably to be expected a little bit because it was our first occasion at Twickenham.
"I'm not broken by losing to Harlequins away from home. I'm just disappointed we didn't show more of ourselves.
"We think we'll be involved in big games down the line so this was very important for us because, if you want to win big games, you have to win at Twickenham.
"I was impressed by the intent and intensity that Quins brought to the game in the opening period. That knocked us out of our stride. The second half was better because we showed intent in the collisions and some attitude in what we did."
Harlequins: Brown, Walker, Hopper, Casson, Smith, Evans, Care, Marler, Ward, Collier, Matthews, Robson, Wallace, Robshaw, Easter.
Replacements: Lindsay-Hague for Smith (76), Dickson for Care (56), Lambert for Marler (65), Doran-Jones for Collier (65), Kennedy for Matthews (65), Guest for Wallace (76). Not Used: Crumpton, Botica.
Exeter: Arscott, Nowell, Whitten, Shoemark, James, Steenson, Thomas, Moon, Yeandle, Tui, Mumm, Welch, Johnson, White, Ewers.
Replacements: Vainikolo for James (55), Slade for Steenson (62), Chudley for Thomas (33), Brown for Moon (62), Whitehead for Yeandle (53), Sturgess for Tui (62), Hanks for Welch (55), Horstmann for Johnson (76).
Sin Bin: Nowell (32).
Referee: JP Doyle (RFU).