A try deep in injury time cost NEC Harlequins victory against their former Premiership rivals Saracens in both sides final pre-season friendly of the summer, played at Harpenden RFC. However, Quins gave a promising display, scoring four tries in a defeat by the narrowest of margins (25-24).
In a closely fought contest, in which the lead changed hands four times, the home side opened the scoring with a Glen Jackson penalty after ten minutes, though the visitors struck back instantly. A beautifully weighted floating pass from Andrew Mehrtens created an overlap, which allowed Ugo Monye to touchdown in the corner to put Quins 5-3 ahead.
Spurred on by vocal home support, Saracens piled on the pressure. Their efforts were finally rewarded as flanker David Seymour jumped upon a charge down, as Quins tried frantically to clear their own line. Jackson was on hand to add the conversion, before adding another penalty to his tally moments later and make the score 13-5.
Straight from the restart and Quins were again under pressure. They were unable to break free from their own half until a Mehrtens penalty gave them field position just metres short of the Saracens line. Recent signing Lorne Ward claimed the try from the resulting lineout, as the Quins forwards mauled through the Sarries defence and bundled over the line. Mehrtens converted from wide out to make the score 13-12 to Saracens at the halfway stage.
At half-time Quins rang the changes and as the new faces settled, the home side extended their advantage with a try from Alex Sanderson, though Jackson failed to add the two extra points on offer.
Quins then dominated large passages of play, forwards and backs combining well to launch a wave of probing attacks. Steve So'oialo spotted a gaping hole in the home sides defence and went over under the posts unopposed, leaving Mehrtens with a simple conversion to put Quins into a one-point lead (19-18).
Monye then claimed his second try of the afternoon after the ball was moved skillfully and swiftly along the back line, allowing the winger to touchdown in the corner. Mehrtens missed the conversion from wide out, but Quins now had a six-point advantage.
18-24 down and desperate to avoid defeat, Saracens once again raised the tempo. Valiant defending from Quins was eventually undone as Jackson touchdown by the posts. The fly half's successful conversion, with the last kick of the game, secured a narrow one-point victory for the hosts.
Final score, 25-24.
By Toby Gregory.
Saracens XV: 15. Dan Scarbrough, 14. Nnamdi Obi, 13. Ben Johnston, 12. Kevin Sorrell, 11. Richard Haughton, 10. Glen Jackson, 9. Alan Dickens, 1. Nick Lloyd, 2. Matt Cairns, 3. Cobus Visagie, 4. Kris Chesney, 5. Hugh. Vyvyan (Capt.), 6. Taine Randell, 7. David Seymour, 8. Ben Skirving
Replacements: Shane Byrne, Ben Broster, Kevin Yates, Alex Sanderson, Iain Fullarton, Ben T Russell, Mosese Rauluni, Tom Ryder, Ben J Russell, Dan Harris, Tevita Vaikona
Tries: Seymour, Sanderson, Jackson
Conversion: Jackson (2)
Penalty: Jackson (2)
NEC Harlequins XV: 15. Tom Williams, 14. George Harder, 13. Gavin Duffy, 12. Mel Deane, 11. Ugo Monye, 10. Andrew Mehrtens, 9. Ian Vass, 1. Ceri Jones, 2. Jimmy Richards, 3. Lorne Ward, 4. Jim Evans, 5. Simon Miall, 6. Chris Robshaw, 7. Andre Vos (Capt.), 8. Nick Easter
Replacements: Tani Fuga, Ricky Nebbett, Pablo Bouza, Luke Sherriff, Tony Diprose, Steve So'oialo, Adrian Jarvis, Jordan Turner-Hall, Charlie Amesbury, Simon Keogh, Mike Brown
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.