An under-strength NEC Harlequins side battled to victory over Perigueux in their first match of the European Shield. Quins deserved to win by dominating the second half, but this was at times a very scrappy affair. Whilst not at their best for much of the game, this was an important victory for Quins.
Heavy rain prior to the kick-off meant that the conditions were not suited for fast, free-flowing rugby. This was obvious from the outset as numerous handling errors hindered each team's attacking opportunities. Quins also had to deal with the loss of centre Nick Burrows who was injured early on. Ex-London Bronco Ed Jennings, who came on to make his first team debut, replaced him.
The home team opened the scoring on 13 minutes, with Tani Fuga crossing for a try after excellent work from Mike Friday, who was also making his debut at scrum half. Ben Gollings successfully converted as Quins began to assert their authority on the match. The French side were quick to respond with a Ravanel penalty on 15 minutes to make the score 7-3. Minutes later and Jennings' first contribution was to sprint clear of the Perigueux defence and set up Jamie Williams for an easy run in. Gollings failed with the conversion, but it looked at this point as if Quins would amass a large total.
However this was not the case, and on 39 minutes sustained pressure led to a try for the visitors through Olivier Beaudon. Ravanel converted and suddenly Quins lead was reduced to five points, the half-time score being 15-10.
Worse was to come shortly after the re-start. Ravanel kicked a penalty from in front of the posts and the deficit was down to just two. Suddenly Quins were spurred into action forcing Perigueux back into their own half. On 55 minutes, Jennings broke through the defence and found Roy Winters in support. The number eight crashed over the line for his first try of the season. With the score at 20-13, Quins gave themselves some breathing space.
This did not last for long as Ravanel reduced the deficit to 20-16 with another penalty. Quins were not about to let their lead slip and responded with a penalty of their own on 63 minutes. Jennings was again involved, successfully converting after taking over the kicking duties from Gollings, who had left the field.
From this point onwards Quins controlled possession and put Perigueux firmly on the back foot. Quins failed to add any further points to the scoreboard, but neither did Perigueux. While the French team had produced some tense moments, Quins finished the game as comfortable winners.
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.