Nine penalties from fly-half Simon Mannix condemned NEC Harlequins to their third away defeat of the Zurich Premiership season. It was a game that Quins could and possibly should have won as they had an eight point lead at half-time. But Gloucester dominated possession and territory throughout the second period and the boot of Mannix made Quins pay.
Quins made a blistering start. Paul Burke kicked a penalty in the opening minute and from the re-start they scored one of the tries of the season. Running the ball from deep, Will Greenwood's long pass put Ryan O'Neil into space. O'Neill raced over half-way thanks to a beautiful dummy. David Wilson provided support and Greenwood was on hand to take the scoring pass, running in unopposed for a breathtaking score. Burke converted and Quins were ten points ahead.
Gloucester then started their fight back. Pressure told on the Quins defence and the first two Mannix penalties resulted from offside decisions. Poor handling from the home side prevented them from reducing the deficit further with Chris Yates being the main culprit by dropping a scoring pass.
A forward pass from Nick Burrows halted Brendon Daniel's sprint to the line, but a few minutes later Quins had their second try. Keith Wood broke through the defence and the supporting Burrows was given the simple task to touch down, which Burke converted. The remaining five minutes of the half saw Mannix kick two penalties to Burke's one, making the half-time score 12-20.
Mannix kicked his fifth penalty right at the start of the second half and then after 47 minutes the deficit was down to just two points as penalty number six sailed through the posts. A Burke penalty seven minutes later eased the pressure, but it was to be Quins final score of the game. Mannix cancelled out this score with 20 minutes left. A dangerous tackle from Wood on Catling gave Mannix the chance to give Gloucester the lead. He duly converted the penalty, much to the delight of the Kingsholm shed.
Burke so nearly restored Quins lead straight away, but his penalty attempt from the touchline hit the post and went wide. Mannix's final effort was struck from just inside his own half and gave Gloucester a crucial four point lead.
Quins so nearly won it right at the death with the opportunity being created by Jamie Williams, making a welcome return to the side as a second half replacement. Williams shot down the wing with the Gloucester defence nowhere in sight. When the cover finally came across, support was on hand but the pass to Daniel failed to give the winger the space he required and he was duly bundled into touch. With the opportunity lost, so was the game just a couple of minutes later.
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.