NEC Harlequins suffered their fourth successive defeat against the Natal Sharks, losing out by 31-3 in the Safe Solutions Challenge at the Stoop. The South African Super 12 side scored four tries in total, two in either half, with the extra experience of their back division having a decisive effect on deciding the outcome.
It was Quins who had the better of the opening quarter, but despite playing much of the game deep in Sharks territory, they were unable to breakthrough a resolute defence from the visitors. Henry Barratt came the closest to putting Quins first points on the board, but he knocked the ball forward when tackled five metres from the line.
13 minutes before half-time and the deadlock was broken, as the Sharks scored their opening try of the night. Winger Dean Hall made ground into Quins twenty-two before fly half Conrad Barnard chipped ahead. The home side failed to deal with the loose ball, allowing flanker Braam Immelman to claim the score under the posts, which Barnard converted.
Just five minutes later and the Sharks doubled their advantage. Quins lost a lineout just inside their own half and the ball was sent wide to Odwa Ndungane on the right wing, who sprinted to the line unopposed. Barnard added the conversion from wide out to give the Sharks a 14-point lead.
Quins hit back straight from the restart with fly half Dave Harvey, on loan from Newbury RFC, converting a penalty but it would prove to be Quins only points in the match. It meant that the Sharks led 14-3 at half-time.
Four minutes after the restart and the Sharks registered their third try of the game. A patient build-up from the South Africans eventually resulted in centre Trevor Halstead powering his way over from close range. Barnard once again added the two extra points on offer to put the Sharks three scores ahead (21-3).
Any thoughts Quins had of staging a fight back disappeared 12 minutes from the end. Centre Gcobani Bobo took an inside ball before releasing replacement Brent Russell out on the left flank, who comfortably had the pace to sprint over in the corner. Barnard once again found the target with the conversion, before a penalty from full back Jacques Schutte completed the scoring with the last kick of the match.
NEC Harlequins XV: 15. Tom Williams, 14. Simon Keogh, 13. Tosh Masson, 12. Andy Reay, 11. Henry Barratt, 10. Dave Harvey, 9. Dave von Hoesslin, 1. Ceri Jones, 2. Tani Fuga, 3. Jon Dawson, 4. Karl Rudzki, 5. Simon Miall, 6. Luke Sherriff, 7. Andre Vos (Capt.), 8. Kai Horstmann
Replacements: 16. Cameron Dott, 17. Mike Worsley, 18. Mark Lambert, 19. Roy Winters, 20. Jim Evans, 21. Tom Guest, 22. Duncan James, 23. Joe Mbu, 24. Mel Deane
Natal Sharks XV: 15. Jacques Schutte, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Trevor Halstead, 12. Gcobani Bobo, 11. Dean Hall, 10. Conrad Barnard, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 1. Wian du Preez, 2. Skipper Badenhorst, 3. Danie Saayman, 4. Nico Breedt, 5. Albert van den Berg, 6. Jacques Botes, 7. Braam Immelman, 8. Jaco Gouws (Capt.)
Replacements: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Eduard Coetzee, 18. Brendon Botha, 19. Charl van Rensburg, 20. Craig Davidson, 21. Brent Russell, 22. Callie Wannenburg, 23. Rudi Keil
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.