The NEC Harlequins were beaten by Rod Kafer's Saracens 39-33 away at Vicarage Road in what was a disappointing result for Mark Evans and his team. With the boot of Saracens fly half Andy Goode responsible for 24 points in the match, Quins top of the table slot and unbeaten record thus far came to an end.
Quins started well with an early try by prop Ceri Jones, who, after lineout drive and a strong run from Jim Evans burrowed over the line to score in the fourth minute. Fly half Paul Burke converted the try putting his team ahead 0-7.
Goode kicked away at the lead and within three minutes had added a further 9 points to the tally with a drop goal in the 9th minute and then two penalties in the 11th and 12th minutes. (Score 9-7)
As well as kicking almost perfectly the fly half dominated play in all aspects of the game and allowed for his backline to play expansive attacking rugby. With a run of penalties going Quins way there were a few chances that could have been converted into points, but it was not to be.
In the 24th minute Saracens exploited the blindside and after an inspiring break and run by winger Nathan McAvoy, who raced up field before off-loading a perfectly timed pass to French fullback Thomas Castaignede, the home side crossed the line with their first try of the match. Goode converted putting Saracens ahead 16-7.
Star winger Richard Haughton was sent to the sin bin in the 30th minute to the surprise of the crowd for what was deemed as not rolling away from the ball, this penalty gave Burke the opportunity to add three points, which he duly did putting the score at 16-10. Unfortunately for Quins they did not manage to put the pressure on
Saracens while Haughton was off the field and a penalty each way, kicked by Goode and Burke took the score to 19-13 at half time.
Ex- Quins lock Alex Codling who had made a start for his new side played most of the first half, but was replaced by Ben Skirving in the 38th minute.
The second half was more than eventful. Goode continued his kicking spree with two early penalties in the 45th and 48th minutes, (Score 25-13). Quins woe continued when Haughton scored in the 52nd minute after a show of pace and a pass from Castaignede, Goode added the conversion points and the home side were up 32-13.
Burke kicked a penalty for Quins in the 58th minute, but the Saracens lead was extended by Taine Randell minutes later, who, after a cross field kick from that impressive fly half went over to score. Goode converted once again to make the score 39 - 16.
Saracens were shown their second yellow card in the 73rd minute when Andy Kershaw was sent to the sin bin and minutes later Quins were awarded a penalty try. Andy Dunne, who had come on for Burke in the 68th minute, converted and the score line stood at 39-23.
The last quarter of the match saw Quins on the comeback trail and a try by replacement winger Simon Keogh in injury time converted by Andy Dunne put them closer to Saracen's 39 points. A third yellow card saw the light in injury time to loud booing from the Vicarage Road fans when Kris Chesney had to leave the field.
The final Quins points came from a massive penalty kick from the halfway line also kicked by Andy Dunne, which gave the visitors a bonus point in the dying minutes of the game. The final score was 39-33 to Saracens.
In the post match press conference Saracens coach Rod Kafer spoke about Goode's performance: "He has been working very hard the last couple of weeks on his goal kicking. He spends 45 minutes every day practicing and we are starting to see the results."
NEC Harlequins Director of Rugby Mark Evans was clearly disappointed. "In the first half we carved out a number of chances and only took one. We conceded 16 points from a team that were not doing much. That's irritating. Going into the second half I felt comfortable as we were only 6 points down, I felt we could come out and do a job, but in those mad 15 minutes we self destructed."
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.