Premiership: London Irish 15-20 Harlequins
|London Irish (6) 15|
|Pens: Geraghty 5|
|Harlequins (20) 20|
|Tries: Monye, Lindsay-Hague|
|Pens: Evans 2 Cons: Evans 2|
Harlequins opened their Premiership campaign with a hard-earned victory over London Irish at Twickenham.
Quins led 20-6 at the break after tries from Ugo Monye and Ollie Lindsay-Hague, with two conversions and penalties from Nick Evans.
Shane Geraghty kicked two first-half penalties and three in the second period to narrow the deficit to 15-20.
However, Irish failed to gain the territory they needed to threaten further as Quins held on for victory.
Quins showed the most adventure and flair in an entertaining first-half and they deservedly took a 14-point lead into the break.
The margin could have been more had Evans been more accurate with the boot - missing two penalties he would have expected to land.
The first points of the game came from the boot of Quins' outside-half with Evans landing an early kick - one of six unanswered penalties London Irish would concede inside the opening 17 minutes.
It was not long before Quins got their first try of the game. Another penalty was kicked to the corner, and from the resulting line-out a flowing three-quarter move and a neat flick pass from Mike Brown ended with Monye going over in the corner.
Evans added the conversion with a Geraghty penalty soon after reducing the deficit and getting Irish on the board.
The Exiles had Eamonn Sheridan sin-binned for playing the ball on the floor and Evans and Geraghty traded penalties as the score moved to 13-6.
Then came a moment of magic from Lindsay-Hague who not only scored Quins' second try but lit up the opening half with a moment of magic.
Faced with Topsy Ojo just inside the Irish half, he showed superb footwork, exceptional strength and blistering pace to escape the attentions of his opposite wing before sprinting down the touchline to complete a stunning score.
Evans added the conversion, while on the stroke of half-time Geraghty hit the crossbar from inside his own half with a speculative long-range penalty.
Quins lost captain Joe Marler for 10 minutes due to ill-discipline and Geraghty made it 20-9 with his third penalty, while Evans missed another soon after.
Harlequins prop Kyle Sinckler became their second player sent to the sin-bin after he was penalised for a high tackle on David Paice.
Irish failed to take advantage of a two-man advantage and had to be content with another Geraghty penalty just before Marler returned with the deficit now down to eight points.
Quins erratic and ill-disciplined half continued as Geraghty sent over his fifth penalty of the game as London Irish moved to within a try of Harlequins.
Evans had a glorious chance to seal victory with a 77th-minute penalty from a relatively comfortable position but inexplicably missed to keep Irish's hopes alive.
But a final chance for Irish to score failed to materialise and last year's losing Premiership semi-finalists started the season with a victory.
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith:
"We couldn't get going in the first 20 minutes and they rattled up the scores. We had got to half-time without firing any shots.
"We were outplayed in the first half but we reassessed at the interval and ultimately had a shot to win it.
"They are a quality outfit, so at half-time I would certainly have taken a bonus point."
Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea:
"In the first half we were incredibly in control and comfortably the better team but in the second half, we couldn't get our game going at all.
"Our ill-discipline gave them momentum and we gave away a raft of penalties with virtually no decisions going our way.
"But, while I'm not happy with the performance, I'm pleased at the way we dug in when we had players in the bin."
London Irish: Homer; Ojo, Mulchrone, Sheridan, Short; Geraghty, Steele; Court, Paice, Aulika; Skivington (capt), Leo; Cowan, Treviranus, Guest.
Replacements:: Noakes for Sheridan (67), O'Leary for Steele (49), Parr for Court (75), Halavatau for Aulika (54), Gilsenan for Leo (80), Low for Guest (61). Not Used: Ellis, Fowlie.
Sin Bin: Sheridan (27).
Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Hopper, Turner-Hall, Monye; Evans, Care; Marler (capt), Gray, Sinckler; Matthews, Robson; Wallace, Robshaw, Easter.
Replacements: Lindsay-Hague for Monye (29), Buchanan for Gray (54), Collier for Sinckler (63), Merrick for Matthews (60), Lambert for Wallace (47). Not Used: Clifford, Dickson, Botica.
Sin Bin: Marler (42), Sinckler (51).
Referee: Greg Garner (RFU).