Harlequins 53 Zebre 5
Harlequins remain unbeaten in the Heineken Cup after demolishing Italian strugglers Zebre at The Stoop.
The bonus-point win ensured that Quins only have to secure one point from their remaining two games to top Pool Three and hopefully secure a home draw in the quarter-finals.
Quins took some time to subdue the visitors but once Zebre picked up two yellow cards in quick succession, it was a case of damage limitation as the home side scored seven tries and collected 18 points from the boot of Nick Evans.
Chris Robshaw and Ugo Monye returned to the Quins’ line-up after missing last weekend’s reverse fixture.
Quins were ahead within three minutes with a simple penalty from Evans before the outside-half set up the first try with only seven minutes gone.
Evans chipped behind the Zebre defence for Tom Casson to collect and score easily. Evans converted to give his side an early 10-point advantage.
Zebre had their first chance of a try when Quins lost possession at a ruck on halfway. Samuele Pace hacked on and Quins looked in trouble until some nimble footwork from Evans rescued them and turned defence into attack.
Quins were frustrated for the next 20 minutes due to some stout defence from the visitors, who ended up collecting the next score.
Luciano Orquera missed with a long-range penalty but soon made amends, sailing through a huge gap in the Quins’ defence before rounding Mike Brown with ease. He was hauled down a few metres short by Sam Smith but Ruggero Trevisan was on hand to pick up and score.
Evans responded with a penalty as Zebre continued to incur the displeasure of the French referee and worse was to follow for them as centre Daniel Halangahu was yellow carded for diving in at the tackle area.
Quins chose a scrum and were immediately awarded a penalty try as the Zebre pack careered backwards. Evans converted to give the hosts a 20-5 interval lead.
Monye was replaced by Ben Botica and within three minutes of the restart the replacement was over for Quins’ third try, which Evans again converted.
Halangahu returned from the sin-bin but the Italians were only at full strength for three minutes as replacement centre Gonzalo Garcia received a yellow card for deliberate offside.
Once again Quins took full advantage as a driving line-out was brought down narrowly short, but Tom Guest was fed from the resulting maul for the flanker to drive over for the try which Evans converted.
Nick Easter and Matt Hopper were both substituted but Zebre still could not stem the tide.
Sam Smith finished off a flowing three-quarter move for the fifth try and with 20 minutes remaining Mike Brown was replaced by Karl Dickson which resulted in Danny Care taking up an unaccustomed position. It paid dividends as he was soon presented with a 40-metre run in for another try.
With seven minutes remaining, Zebre’s woes continued when flanker Filippo Ferrarini became their third visitor to the sin-bin before Dickson had the final say with the last try for the home side.