NEC Harlequins were pushed all the way by Bedford, but maintained their unbeaten run in National Division One thanks to a 26-20 victory at Goldington Road. An excellent fight back from the home side in the second half pegged the visitors back, who led 20-3 at half-time. However, a faultless display of goal kicking from Andrew Mehrtens kept Quins in front through to the final whistle.
Quins came out with all guns blazing and raced into a 13-point lead in the opening ten minutes. Mehrtens kicked a penalty with just two minutes on the clock and was then called into action moments later to convert Simon Keogh's try. A turnover of possession allowed Ugo Monye to make ground down the right flank, before Steve So'oialo fed Keogh out on the left and he had the pace to round Bedford full back Mark Harris and touchdown under the posts unopposed.
A second penalty from Mehrtens extended Quins lead, while Harris missed the opportunity to open Bedford's account three minutes before the end of the first quarter with his penalty attempt drifting wide of the posts. He made amends four minutes later, but the sin-binning of winger Mike Staten led to Quins scoring their second try of the afternoon with their extra man advantage.
Jim Evans stole possession at a Bedford lineout inside the home sides twenty-two, before he and Nick Easter made inroads into the Bedford defence. With the overlap created out on the left, a beautifully weighted floated pass from Mehrtens gave Tom Williams a simple run-in from close range. Mehrtens added the two extra points on offer from the conversion to give Quins their 17-point cushion at the break.
The home side made a fast start to the second half and put themselves back in contention by scoring the first of their two tries. A sweeping move from the Bedford back division resulted in winger Craig Moir diving over in the corner. An excellent conversion from Harris on the touchline cut the deficit to ten points (10-20).
Andre Vos was sent to the sin-bin for deliberately killing the ball but it was Quins who were next to trouble the scoreboard, with Mehrtens landing his third penalty of the match. However, Bedford hit back straight from the restart as a controversial turnover of possession on the Quins twenty-two led to lock forward Jon Phillips powering over to score. A successful conversion from Harris meant the two sides were separated by a single score (17-23) with 28 minutes left to play.
Phillips turned from hero to villain as by preventing So'oialo from taking a quick penalty earned him a yellow card and ten minutes on the touchline. Mehrtens converted the resulting penalty to put Quins into a nine-point lead (17-26) going into the final quarter.
Bedford dominated from then on but some excellent defence from Quins prevented them from adding to their tally. The home sides efforts were finally rewarded when Harris converted his second penalty in injury time. This set-up a tense finale from the restart but the visitors held-on for their eleventh consecutive league victory.
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.