Marcus Smith orchestrates Harlequins’ crushing win against Worcester

Harlequins romped back into the Premiership top four with a crushing eight-try victory over Worcester that featured a number of eye-catching performances from their England players past, present and future.

Marcus Smith – on England’s radar for their summer tour – and Danny Care combined well at half-back, Joe Marchant was buzzing around at centre and Mike Brown was his usual feisty self. But perhaps the most impressive performer of the day was the No 8, Alex Dombrandt, who time and again bulldozed his way through Worcester’s powderpuff defence.

All be told, it was a significant response from Harlequins after Northampton’s high-scoring win over London Irish had moved them into the final play-off place on Friday. “Top four at the moment is what we’re aiming for,” said the Harlequins coach, Jerry Flannery. “To get to two would be brilliant, but to be in the mix at the end of the season would be enough at the moment.”

Four of the tries came in the opening 11 minutes, which said everything about both sides’ ambitions to play and plenty about their attitudes to defence. If the England attack coach, Simon Amor, enjoyed what he saw from the stands you imagine his defensive counterpart, John Mitchell, would have been tearing his hair out – if he had any left.

Care scored the first, darting over in the left corner after a driving maul had taken Harlequins to within a couple of metres. He has been in fine form and although now 34 and without an England cap since 2018, his unlikely run towards a place in the British & Irish Lions squad continues to gather pace. “I wouldn’t discount it,” said Flannery. “If you’re looking through the Premiership at the moment you’d be hard pushed to find someone playing better than him.”

Niall Annett responded for Worcester with a powerful finish from close range before Smith exchanged passes with Dombrandt and scampered under the posts. Worcester’s reply was again immediate, Ed Fidow bursting down the left before Joe Batley crashed over.

It is surely a good thing to watch sides adopt a policy of trying to outscore their opponents rather than simply keep them out, but there can be too much of a good thing. Since a stop was put to relegation, a number of Premiership matches have not had a suitable balance between attack and defence.

Harlequins, for their part, were undeterred at twice conceding having just scored, and had number three through André Esterhuizen after a fine aerial take by Brown had put the hosts on the front foot. The bonus point came on the half hour through Wilco Louw before Will Evans added an acrobatic fifth on the stroke of half-time.

A delightful arcing run from Marchant almost yielded a sixth after the restart but after a kick to the corner following Brown’s excellent kick-chase, Evans plunged over from close range for his second. Smith was orchestrating proceedings by this stage and his quick hands then put Tyrone Green away in the right-hand corner.

Harlequins’ final try came after yet another strong carry from Dombrandt, with the replacement Luke Northmore cruising over on the left to bring up the half-century. Richard Palframan and Alex Hearle scored Worcester’s third and fourth tries late on, however – Quins were seemingly already back in the sheds – to bring up the bonus point. “A very, very small consolation is a point at the end but we’re really disappointed with the performance,” said Worcester’s head coach, Jonathan Thomas. “It’s not acceptable to concede 50 points.”