NEC Harlequins picked up their first victory of the season thanks to a comprehensive 40-14 win over Bristol in their friendly fixture at the Memorial Stadium. The visitors scored six tries in total and gave a debut to tighthead prop Lorne Ward, who joined the club from London Welsh on Friday (19th August).
It was Bristol who had the majority of the possession in the first half, but a combination of good defence from Quins and poor handling from the home side meant that the scoreboard saw no action until five minutes before half-time.
The first points of the afternoon went to Quins following a five metre scrum. A solid set-piece resulted in Ian Vass moving the ball right, before Tom Williams came from deep and at pace to break through the defence and score under the posts. Andrew Mehrtens added the conversion to put Quins seven points in front.
Shortly after the restart, Bristol worked their way downfield and it looked like Mehrtens was in considerable trouble just a few yards from his own line, with five Bristol players closing down on him. However, the fly half dummied left and right before spinning a pass half the width of the pitch to Ugo Monye, who pinned his ears back, rounded his opposite number Lee Robinson, broke a couple of tackles and went over 15 metres from the touchline. Mehrtens again added the two extra points on offer and Quins went into the break 14-0 ahead.
Seven minutes after the restart and Tom Guest was the next to score to extend Quins advantage. Jimmy Richards showed great pace to make a half break before passing to Guest, who strolled through the weak defence to touchdown under the posts. Mehrtens made no mistake with the simple conversion to stretch Quins lead to 21 points.
As the game approached the final quarter, Bristol registered their first points of the match. After retaining possession and recycling the ball well, which stretched the visitors' defence, the ball went left where hooker Saul Nelson went over in the corner. Danny Gray added the touchline conversion to make the score 7-21, though Quins hit back moments later.
Steve So'oialo, Adrian Jarvis, Jordan Turner-Hall and George Harder combined to release Mike Brown, who sprinted up the wing only to be tackled just short of the line. However, Charlie Amesbury was in support to accept Brown's offload and was able to dive over in the left corner for Quins fourth try. Jarvis took over the kicking duties and added the conversion from the touchline to make the score 28-7 after 63 minutes.
Robinson scored Bristol's second try, which Gray once again converted, to reduce the deficit to 14 points (14-28), but two scores in the final five minutes extended Quins margin of victory to 26 points come the final whistle.
Try number five went to Jarvis after Brown, Turner-Hall and Harder all carried the ball deep into Bristol territory. The forwards recycled possession before a long pass was sent right to Jarvis, waiting on the wing, allowing him to touchdown in the corner, though he missed the tricky conversion from wide out.
Bristol then lost the ball in attack, allowing Jarvis to break before releasing Brown for an unopposed run in under the posts. Jarvis completed the scoring by adding the conversion to Quins tally.
Final score, 14-40.
By Duncan Franklin.
Bristol Rugby XV: 15. Bernardo Stortoni, 14. Lee Robinson, 13. Rob Higgitt, 12. Mark Denney, 11. Sean Marsden, 10. Jason Strange, 9. Shaun Perry, 1. Alex Clarke, 2. Saul Nelson, 3. Wayne Thompson, 4. Olly Kohn, 5. Gareth Llewellyn, 6. Matt Salter (Capt.), 7. Joe El Abd, 8. Dan Ward-Smith
Replacements: Marko Stanojevic, Manu Contepomi, Danny Gray, Greg Nicholls, Dave Hilton, Mark Irish, Ollie Hodge, Roy Winters, Craig Short, Geraint Lewis
NEC Harlequins: 15. Tom Williams, 14. Simon Keogh, 13. Gavin Duffy, 12. Will Greenwood, 11. Ugo Monye, 10. Adrian Jarvis, 9. Ian Vass, 1. Ceri Jones, 2. Tani Fuga, 3. Ricky Nebbett, 4. Kevin Burke, 5. Jim Evans, 6. Pablo Bouza, 7. Luke Sherriff (Capt.), 8. Nick Easter
Replacements: Lorne Ward, Jimmy Richards, Simon Miall, Tom Guest, Chris Robshaw, Steve So'oialo, Andrew Mehrtens, Charlie Amesbury, Mel Deane, Jordan Turner-Hall, George Harder, 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.