NEC Harlequins recorded their second victory in the European Shield in this hard fought match against Ebbw Vale. For the second week in succession, dreadful conditions ruined the prospect an open game of rugby and both sides struggled to put together any phases of play. In the end, a try in the opening minutes and then mid-way through the second half saw Quins claim an important win.
Straight from the kick-off, Quins found themselves deep inside Ebbw Vale territory. From a lineout five meters out, the visitors opened their account. Nigel Matthews found Garrick Morgan and a rolling maul surged towards the line. Matthews broke free and crashed over to score. Ed Jennings touchline conversion drifted passed the posts, though Quins were five points ahead with only two minutes on the clock.
Ebbw Vale almost hit back straight away, but a drop goal attempt from centre Paul Matthews sailed just wide. A delightful break from Will Greenwood looked like setting up Quins second try after 14 minutes. Daren O'Leary was brought down short of the line and from the resulting ruck, Morgan was penalised for dangerous play and the opportunity was lost. Six minutes later and Jennings badly pulled a penalty attempt wide of the target.
Instead of being eight points ahead, Quins lead was reduced to two when fly-half Shaun Connor slotted a left footed drop goal on 26 minutes. A period of sustained pressure led to a Jennings penalty nine minutes later, with Ebbw Vale offside in midfield. Connor cancelled this out in first half injury time, when Rory Jenkins was penalised for deliberately killing the ball. This meant Quins went in to the break with just a two-point lead.
Ebbw Vale came out at the start of the second half looking to make a quick impression on the scoreboard. Matthew Taylor and Connor both failed with drop goal attempts and only a timely interception from David Wilson prevented the Welsh side from advancing towards the Quins line. When a Connor drop goal was ruled out, despite clearly crossing the bar, was followed by a failed penalty attempt from the fly-half, it looked as if it was to be Quins day.
On 64 minutes, the issue was settled with a wonderful score. Quick ball from a lineout resulted in Greenwood putting Nick Greenstock through the gap. The centre raced up to the twenty-two and had just the full-back to beat. Greenwood was on hand to take the inside pass and score under the posts. Jennings conversion gave the visitors a nine-point lead.
Quins then ran down the clock without conceding any further points. Jennings completed the scoring with a penalty in the final minute of the game. The final whistle followed, much to the delight of the Quins players.
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.