Jack Willis’ late try secured a dramatic victory for Wasps to deny Chris Robshaw a winning send off in his final Harlequins game at The Stoop.
A first-half brace of scores from Alex Dombrandt and a Marcus Smith wonder-try appeared to keep the match on an approving script for the former England captain, despite Tom Willis scoring first for Wasps early on.
But Elia Elia’s red card for a high hit on Dan Robson with 26 minutes left proved crucial as Wasps rallied through scores from Gaby Oghre, Thomas Young and Jack Willis’ to secure a 10th win in 12 games under Lee Blackett’s tenure as head coach.
Wasps took a 12th minute lead as they ruthlessly went after a Harlequins front row that was forced into two changes in the warm up with Scott Baldwin and Santiago Garcia Botta being replaced.
With penalty advantage five metres out as Quins crumbled, Tom Willis skilfully dribbled at the base before crossing for his fourth try in five games.
Everything appeared to be going the visitors’ way when James Chisolm was forced off with an injury. However, that allowed Dombrandt a longer-than-expected run out and inside his first minute he latched onto Smith’s pass, busting through James Gaskell’s tackle to cross and level the scores.
Just 13 minutes later he was celebrating his second try as his perfectly-timed run onto Elia Elia’s pass allowed him to swot off Jacob Umaga and score under the posts. Robshaw was instrumental in the build-up to the score, turning over a ruck inside his own half from which his side rallied.
Jimmy Gopperth and Smith scored penalties before half-time as the hosts took a seven-point lead into the break.
Then came Smith’s moment of brilliance. Gathering a high ball he hung up a delicate chip that tempted in Dan Robson but Smith claimed it before rounding Umaga to score Quins third and restored the dozen-point advantage.
Quins were reduced to 14 men and Wasp immediately made the numbers pay as substitute hooker Gaby Oghre drove over to score. Gopperth’s converted but Smith’s excellent penalty with 20 minutes remaining put his side eight points ahead.
Wasps thought they had got to within a point when Jack Willis pounced from close range but it was overturned after a lengthy inspection from the television match official.
Smith’s penalty on the hour-mark once more put Quins two scores ahead but back swarmed Wasps with tries from Young, latching onto Robson’s looped pass, and Jack Willis put them ahead with five minutes to play charging down Mike Brown’s kick.
Gopperth’s conversion and penalty at the death denied Quins even the consolation of a losing bonus point as Blackett’s men moved second in the Gallagher Premiership table ahead of the visit of leaders Exeter Chiefs to the Ricoh Arena on Sunday.
QUINS: 15. Mike Brown; 14. Chris Ashton (Head 61), 13. Joe Marchant (Lang 76), 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Aaron Morris, 10. Marcus Smith, 9. Scott Steele (Care 76); 1. Marc Thomas (67), 2. Elia Elia, 3. Wilco Louw (Simon Kerrod 54), 4. Dino Lamb (Cavubati 76), 5. Glen Young, 6. Chris Robshaw (c), 7. Will Evans, 8. James Chisholm (Dombrandt 20).
Replacements: 16. George Head (Ashton 61), 17. Jordan Els (Thomas 67), 18. Simon Kerrod (Louw 54), 19. Tevita Cavubati (Lamb), 20. Alex Dombrandt (Chisholm 20), 21. Danny Care (Steele 76), 22. Brett Herron, 23. James Lang (Marchant 76)
WASPS: 15. Matteo Minozzi; 14. Zach Kibirige, 13. Malakai Fekitoa, 12. Jimmy Gopperth, 11. Josh Bassett; 10. Jacob Umaga, 9. Dan Robson; 1. Ben Harris (West 43), 2. Tom Cruse (Oghre 47), 3. Kieran Brookes (Toomaga-Allen 62), 4. Will Rowlands, 5. James Gaskell (Cardall 76), 6. Brad Shields (Barbeary 63)), 7. Jack Willis, 8. Tom Willis (Young 54)
Replacements: 16. Gabriel Oghre (Cruse 47), 17. Tom West (Harris 43), 18. Jeff Toomaga-Allen (Brookes 62), 19. Tim Cardall (Gaskell 76), 20. Alfie Barbeary (Shields 63), 21. Thomas Young (T Willis 54), 22. Ben Vellacott, 23. Michael Le Bourgeois
Try: Dombrandt (21’, 32’), Smith (41’)
Con: Smith (33’)
Pen: Smith (40’, 60’)
Reds: Elia (54’)
Try: T Willis (12’), Oghre (56’), Young (72’), J Willis (75’)
Con: Gopperth (57’, 73’, 76’)
Pen: Gopperth (37’, 80’)
Order of scoring: 0-5, 5-5, 12-5, 12-8, 15-8, 20-8, 20-15, 23-15, 23-22, 23-29, 23-32
HT/FT score: 15-8 / 23-32
Referee: Luke Pearce
Man-of-the-match (TV): J Willis