A try from Mel Deane in the last play of the game helped NEC Harlequins to secure a narrow 18-15 victory over Otley at Cross Green and make it two wins from two matches in National Division One. However, for the second week in a row this was a far from convincing performance from the men from the Stoop, who were lucky to come away with the four points.
Otley showed that they were prepared to take on the visitors when fly half Simon Binns chose to kick to touch rather than trying to put points on the board from a penalty after 13 minutes. However, poor handling meant that the chance was lost, while Andrew Mehrtens saw a long range penalty attempt drift wide of the target at the start of the second quarter.
Ten minutes later, Mehrtens lined up an identical kick and this time made no mistake in putting the first points on the board to give Quins a 3-0 lead with 30 minutes on the clock.
However, Otley were soon back in the Quins half and Ugo Monye was forced to touchdown behind his own try line following a chip ahead. Mehrtens took a quick drop out but the kick went straight to Otley winger Rob Whatmuff, who had a relatively simple run-in from 30 yards. Binns missed the conversion from wide out but it was the home side who led 5-3 at half-time.
Quins looked sharper in the second half and made a number of breaks, but simple handling errors meant there was no chance to build any momentum. Furthemore, Binns kept Quins pinned back in their own twenty-two with some good tactical kicking.
The home side were growing in confidence and strung together a rare multiphase attack before hooker Mark Luffman scrambled over in the left hand corner to score. Binns added the extras and Otley were ahead by 12-3 after 55 minutes. A second Mehrtens penalty was cancelled out by Binns in similar fashion, to move the score onto 15-6 in the home sides favour with 15 minutes remaining.
Good pressure from Ian Vass forced Otley full back Tom Rock to slice his kick into touch just ten metres from the Otley line. The Quins catch and drive worked well at the resulting lineout and eventually Andre Vos claimed the try. Mehrtens missed the conversion but the deficit was down to four points (15-11) with four minutes to go.
With the game deep in injury time, Jim Evans and then Vos drove the ball forward before Mehrthens released Mel Deane, who came on a beautiful line to crash through the Otley defence and touchdown by the posts. Mehrtens made no mistake with the simple conversion, which was immediately followed by 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.