NEC Harlequins collected their sixth Zurich Premiership victory of the season with an impressive 39-23 defeat of Newcastle Falcons at the Stoop. A try from Tom Williams 13 minutes from the end was Quins fourth of the match, as the home side picked up the maximum five points, while Jeremy Staunton finished with a personal tally of 19 points with the boot.
Indeed, it was Staunton who opened the scoring with a penalty after just six minutes, though Jonny Wilkinson cancelled this out similar fashion four minutes later. The two fly half's traded penalties once again to make the score 6-6, before Quins scored the first try of the afternoon just before the start of the second quarter.
A knock-on from Newcastle centre Mark Mayherhofler gave Quins a scrum deep inside the visitors twenty-two. With play right on the Newcastle line, Andre Vos released George Harder who powered his way over from close range. After adding the conversion to put Quins 13-6 ahead, Staunton was then at fault in allowing Newcastle to level the scores for the third time in the half.
The Quins number ten had a clearance kick charged down by flanker Cory Harris, who was first to the loose ball before giving fellow back row forward Semo Sititi an unopposed run to the line. Wilkinson added the two extra points from the conversion to make it 13-all 13 minutes before the interval.
Back came the home side and six minutes before half-time they scored an excellent try through Jim Evans. Steve So'oialo made the initial break down the left flank, before play switched to the opposite wing where Vos thundered his way deep into the Newcastle twenty-two. Once again the ball went left and Evans was able to force his way over to claim the five points. Staunton converted and then kicked his third penalty of the half to give Quins a ten-point lead at the halfway stage (23-13).
However, Newcastle made a dream start to the second half as Mayerhofler broke through the Quins midfield and won the race to the line for the Falcons second try within two minutes of the restart. With Wilkinson off the field with a knee injury, sustained in the build-up to Quins second try before half-time, Dave Walder took over the kicking duties and made no mistake with his conversion attempt to cut the deficit to just three points (23-20).
Quins response was immediate and having turned down the option of three points from a penalty, Staunton found touch close the Newcastle line. Tony Diprose won the lineout and Tani Fuga was driven over for Quins third try of the afternoon. Staunton missed the conversion from wide out but the hosts were two scores ahead (28-20).
A Walder penalty kept Newcastle in the game but their chances of claiming a victory went as the game approached the final quarter. Hooker Andy Long was sent to the sin-bin for deliberately killing the ball and Staunton converted the resulting penalty to make the score 31-23. Eight minutes later and Williams settled the outcome by claiming Quins bonus point try. Mike Worsley and Fuga both made ground and with a slight overlap created on the right, Williams just had the space he needed to dive over in the corner.
Despite missing the conversion, Staunton completed the scoring four minutes from time with his fifth penalty of the match to give Quins a comprehensive victory.
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.