"We are never good favourites... but always excellent underdogs", was NEC Harlequins Director of Rugby, John Gallagher's comment after this afternoon's action packed encounter against strong French side Montferrand. It was a brave team performance from NEC Harlequins, who were perhaps the only group of people at the Stoop who didn't believe the pre-match predictions that gave Montferrand a victory by at least twenty points.
Quins had the advantage of the first half wind that ensured that the visitors kept the ball in hand. This led to an uneventful first quarter, the first score coming after 26 minutes with a try from Huw Harries resulting from a poor attempt at a quick throw-in by Jerome Morante. Morante missed his man, and Daren O'Leary pushed for the line. After more than a little jersey tugging from both sides Huw Harries was given the space to cross the line. Montferrand's confidence was tested...and found wanting. Try as they might they seemed to find it impossible to create anything that might result in points for the rest of the first half. NEC Harlequins, despite Rees' missed drop goal and conversion attempts, remained in control of the game. John Schuster's two penalty goals stretched Quins' lead to 11 - 0 at half time.
Montferrand started the second half with a new-found determination. Within three minutes of the re-start Jerard Merceron put three points on the board for Montferrand with a penalty goal. Three minutes later and it was Schuster's turn again, this time, against an unpredictable wind, the ball went wide. Montferrand were now on the attack, but the Quins defence was sublime. Montferrand's best effort to cross the try line were frustrated again and again, their only consulation being two drop goals. The first from Merceron and was followed by Montferrand's best chance of a try throughout the whole eighty minutes. Sebastian Viars broke from his own twenty-two and sprinted a good eighty yards pursued by Peter Mensah. Mensah went into overdrive and, with a crushing tackle, stopped Viars just short of the line.
Montferrand's second drop goal, bringing them within two points of Quins, came from Viars with only ten minutes of the game remaining. He attempted another in extra time but it was charged down by Pat sanderson. The Referee blew his whistle ending the game but keeping Quins' European hopes alive. The final score NEC Harlequins 11, AS Montferrand 9
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.