<strong>NEC Harlequins 14 London Irish 39</strong>
The crowds flocked into The Stoop to watch this local derby, a final match attendance of 7,588 giving a much needed lift to both teams.
The importance of this game to each side was clear from the kick-off. The tension evident amongst the players and fans alike.
Quins were unlucky not to score with the first move of the game before Jarrod Cunningham gave Irish the lead with a penalty on 4 minutes. Harlequins replied quickly with Adam Leach scoring a try under the posts, just reward for some great support play running off Peter Mensah. Gareth Rees slotted the conversion to give Quins a 7-3 lead.
Quins were within the Irish 22 looking to press home their advantage when Peter Mensah fell badly in the tackle, the ball ran loose and Conor O'Shea broke clear to score in the corner. Jarrod Cunningham failed with the conversion and Irish regained the upper hand at 7-8. The luckless Mense never managed to regain his feet and play was stopped prior to the restart as he was carried off with what transpires as knee ligament damage. Ed Smith came on as a replacement but Quins never really seemed to recover as yet another injury took its toll.
Quins remained on the back foot for the remainder of the half but held out until a Jake Boer try just before half-time with JC adding the 2 points from a difficult position. Ironically the try stemmed from another breakaway by the Irish three quarters as Quins pressed deep into the Irish half. The whistle blew for the break with Irish leading 7-15.
London Irish started the second half with a try from Jarrod Cunningham running a great angle between his centres, he converted the score himself and followed with a penalty 10 minutes later to stretch the visitors advantage to 7-25.
Quins then looked to force themselves back into the game and Nick Greenstock scored a great try set up by a sharp break from the base of a ruck from Ed Smith. Gareth Rees converted to give the home crowd some hope at 14-25.
Harlequins had opportunities to get close but could not take them. They pressed the Irish line for the last ten minutes and lost ball again led to another Irish breakaway with Conor O'Shea once again the beneficiary under the posts. He converted the try himself and then deep into injury time set up Ben Whetstone to score a simple touchdown. O'Shea rounding off a fine personal performance with the final two points to seal the London Irish victory at 14-39.
All in all Quins could not exert enough control on the game to keep an Irish back division full of pace at bay.
European qualification will now be an uphill struggle for John Gallagher and his team with 8 games to go and 24 points at stake.
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.