NEC Harlequins virtually secured their Zurich Premiership safety with an excellent 17-9 victory over Leicester Tigers at the Stoop; their first league win over the Midlands club since April 1997. A Paul Burke drop goal, with two minutes left on the clock, put the result beyond doubt as the home side opened up a two score lead.
Playing with a strong wind in the first half, Leicester opened the scoring in the opening minute. Quins were penalised in front of their own posts for coming in at the wrong side of a ruck and Tim Stimpson made no mistake with the simple penalty kick on offer, to put the visitors ahead by three points.
The home side responded with some great attacking play and Nathan Williams was bundled into touch following a fine break down the right wing. Williams was then unlucky not to open Quins account after 11 minutes, as he knocked-on deep inside the Leicester twenty-two after Stimpson had failed to gather the full back's up and under.
However, four minutes later and Stimpson doubled Leicester's lead with a second penalty when Quins captain Andre Vos was penalised for not staying on his feet at a ruck. The home side then got back in the contest when they went over for the only try of the match after 25 minutes.
A wind assisted clearance kick from Martin Johnson sailed over the Quins dead ball line, giving the hosts a scrum on the Leicester twenty-two. Billy Fulton took a return pass from Burke before finding Will Greenwood in the centre. His long pass was gathered by Ben Gollings, who chipped ahead and then was judged to have beaten Stimpson to the touchdown. Burke's conversion attempt sailed narrowly wide of the target, which meant Quins trailed by a point (5-6).
A third Stimpson penalty put Leicester further in front, but it would prove to be their last points of the match 12 minutes before the interval. Tigers fly half Sam Vesty denied Gollings a second try after he won the race to another of the wingers chip kicks that maintained the visitors four point advantage at half-time (9-5)
Burke put Quins back to within a point six minutes after the restart thanks to his first penalty of the afternoon, with Leicester penalised for being offside. However, ten minutes later and Ace Tiatia was sin-binned for deliberately killing the ball. Despite their extra man advantage, Leicester couldn't find a way through a committed and well organised Quins defence.
With 11 minutes left to play Burke put Quins in front for the first time in the game with penalty number two, and the fly half then added another three points to the total in similar fashion seven minutes later, after Johnson was penalised for failing to release the ball in the tackle.
No sooner had the game restarted and Quins were back in the Leicester half thanks to a powerful run from Mel Deane. Once possession was recycled, Burke put Quins home and dry by calmly slotting a drop goal from 40 metres out, much to the delight of the Quins supporters.
Despite referee Roy Maybank playing nearly ten minutes of injury time, neither side could add to the scoreboard, which meant Quins were the one's who were celebrating at the final whistle.
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.