Quins bounce back to beat Biarritz
Harlequins overcame the early loss of Nick Evans to make a triumphant start to their Heineken Cup campaign in a bruising 40-13 clash with Biarritz.
Evans, the Aviva Premiership champions' ringmaster, limped off just 17 minutes into the evening with his left ankle heavily strapped and was later using crutches.
But even without their fly-half and general, Quins were able to subdue Biarritz with his replacement Ben Botica proving a highly-capable deputy in a bonus-point victory at Twickenham Stoop.
Botica, who joined Quins this season and is the son of rugby league great Frano, kicked 18 points and showed a promising level of composure. Evans, whose contract expires in May, is the subject of big money offers from Japanese and French clubs and should he leave, Botica's performance hinted he may be capable of filling his shoes.
Tries from Danny Care, Rob Buchanan, Jordan Turner Hall and Seb Stegmann also helped ensure the tournament's fifth favourites escaped a third successive defeat.
Biarritz's defence was first unlocked by a training-ground move with just six minutes on the clock. A line-out was fed to Chris Robshaw who flicked the ball down to Care and the England scrum-half darted through the gap in front of him, side-stepped winger Takudzwa Ngwenya and crossed over.
Evans landed the conversion but Quins were suffering at the hands of referee George Clancy, Julien Peyrelongue missing one penalty but landing a second. The first involvement by Botica after replacing Evans was to rifle over three points from long range.
Biarritz lost centre Dane Haylett-Petty to the sin-bin after he tackled Tom Williams in mid-air, yet managed to score the next try, with hooker Arnaud Heguy driving over from close range. Peyrelongue added the conversion and a second penalty to move his side into a 13-10 lead.
But Botica was on target with three points to level the score and four minutes after half-time Quins were back in front through when Buchanan barged over. The try followed some impressively physical play from Quins, who drove forward at a scrum and continued to flatten their opponents after changing the point of attack.
A dynamic break from Care resulted in a fresh onslaught and this time Turner-Hall possessed the power to burrow over. Botica converted as Quins brought on fresh legs ahead of Saturday's trip to Connacht, but the bonus point was secured when good hands from Care and Mike Brown sent Stegmann over in the corner.