NEC Harlequins made it six home Zurich Premiership victories in a row, but they were made to work hard for a 26-17 win over Bristol Shoguns. Leading 19-17 and with 12 minutes left to play, the home side sealed victory when Will Greenwood capitalised on a mistake from former Quin Brendon Daniel that allowed the England centre to score out on the left. Paul Burke converted to put Quins two scores clear, which was enough for the hosts to extend their winning run at the Stoop.
Playing with the wind, Quins dominated in the first half and Burke opened the scoring after five minutes. The fly half kicked the first of four penalties in the match after the visitors were penalised for being offside. However, against the run of play, Bristol took the lead four minutes later.
Greenwood, Andre Vos and Bill Davison all made ground into Bristol territory but Greenwood's long pass out to Rob Jewell went to ground and Bristol winger David Rees was able to hack the ball downfield. The former England international then gathered his own kick and sprinted clear to run in for the try from 70 metres out. Felipe Contepomi pushed his conversion attempt wide of the target, but Bristol now led 5-3.
Quins response was immediate and with play in the Bristol twenty-two, Contepomi was sin-binned for a professional foul. With 17 minutes played, Burke put Quins back in front by converting a penalty from the halfway line after the visitors were penalised for not staying on their feet at a ruck.
The home side continued to attack the Bristol line and Jewell, Nick Duncombe and Nathan Williams all went close to scoring Quins opening try of the match. After 26 minutes, Ben Gollings replaced the injured Jewell and it was he who went over for Quins first try five minutes before half-time.
Burke gathered a Contepomi kick downfield and took play over halfway before giving Greenwood a run down the right. The centre didn't have the pace to go all the way but found Burke in support on the inside and the Quins number ten presented Gollings with the scoring pass that enabled the winger to touchdown under the posts. Burke made no mistake with the simple conversion, which gave Quins a 13-5 advantage at the interval.
Nine minutes after the restart and Bristol close the gap to a single point when they scored their second try of the match. Full back Lee Best made a telling break down the right hand side that took play into the Quins twenty-two and after recycling possession through a number of phases of play, centre Daryl Gibson forced his way over from close range. Contepomi added the two extra points on offer to make the score 13-12 in Quins favour.
After failing to convert a difficult penalty attempt from wide out on the right on 53 minutes, Burke made amends four minutes later after Bristol were penalised for being offside. However, Bristol retook the lead as the game entered the final quarter.
Rees started and ended the move that led to the visitors third try of the afternoon. The winger made an excellent break on halfway which took play deep into Quins half. Matt Salter, Daniel and Best all continued to take play forward before Rees was given the space to go over in the left hand corner. Contepomi failed with the conversion but Bristol now had a single point advantage (17-16).
Quins hit back three minutes later with Burke slotting his fourth penalty of the match, with Bristol again penalised for being offside following Agustin Pichot's up and under. Leading 19-17, Quins put a clear amount of daylight between the two teams on the scoreboard with 68 minutes on the clock.
Ace Tiatia powered his way into the Bristol twenty-two before the ball went into the midfield. Greenwood chipped through, though Daniel appeared to have the danger covered. The winger then totally lost his footing in attempting to dive on the ball and Greenwood sneaked in ahead of Vos to score Quins second try. Burke's successful conversion put the home side two scores clear (26-17), which was enough to give them another victory at the Stoop.
With ten minutes remaining, Bristol captain Garath Archer was sin-binned for a high tackle on Jim Evans. Despite having an extra man advantage, Quins failed to trouble the scoreboard again but comfortably held-on for the win.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.