NEC Harlequins suffered a disappointing 10-7 defeat away to the Bedford Blues in their opening pre-season friendly. An experienced and physical home side, expertly led by former Samoan international Junior Paramore, dominated possession and territory throughout, with the new look Quins side unable to stamp their authority on proceedings.
Much of the first quarter was played deep inside the Quins half and Bedford's efforts were rewarded after 15 minutes when scrum half Dominic Malone dived over the in the corner. The scrum half capitalised on an excellent rolling maul from the pack and was able to burrow his way over for the five points, though fly half Ali Hepher failed to add the conversion from close to the right hand touchline.
Quins hit back seven minutes later with a try from Maama Molitika, who had an impressive debut. Henry Barratt was stopped metres from the line after a break down the right flank, but from the quick ball that materialised Steve So'oialo fed Molitika on the crash ball and he had few problems in powering his way over for the score. Staunton added the two extra points on offer and Quins led 7-5, which would be the score at half-time.
Molitika should have claimed a second try five minutes before the interval, but the Tongan international knocked the ball forward whilst diving over for the score following an excellent catch and drive by the pack from a lineout five metres from the Bedford line.
The start of the second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with the home side camped in Quins territory. Only some excellent defence from the visitors prevented Bedford from reclaiming the lead.
With 53 minutes on the clock, centre Matt Allen weaved his way through a number of tackles before the ball went wide to Chris Johnson. With the line in his sights, the hooker committed a similar error to Molitika and spilt possession forward whilst attempting to score.
Five minutes later and Bedford scored what would be the match winning try. With Quins turning over possession just inside their own half, a clever chip ahead led to a foot race between Barratt and his opposite number Spencer Brown. The Bedford winger was the first to the ball and he had no problem touching down for the try. Hepher once again pushed his conversion across the face of the target, but the home side were back in front by 10-7.
Quins rarely threatened the Bedford line in the time that remained and despite controlling possession through a number of phases that resulted in play going from the Quins twenty-two to deep into the opposition half right at the death, the visitors were unable to claim a match winning try.
Final score, 10-7.
Bedford Blues XV: 15. James Hinkins, 14. Craig Moir, 13. Mike Staten, 12. Matt Allen, 11. Spencer Brown, 10. Ali Hepher, 9. Dominic Malone, 1. Matt Volland, 2. Chris Johnson, 3. Matt Stewart, 4. Jon Phillips, 5. Arthur Brenton, 6. James Ball, 7. Shuan Brady, 8. Junior Paramore
Replacements: Ed Binham, John Brooks, Andy Dalgleish, Morne Loxton, Mark Mansfield, Emonn Malloy, Andy Orugboh, Laurence Payne, Nic Strauss, Ian Vass
Tries: Malone, Brown
NEC Harlequins XV: 15. Mike Brown, 14. Henry Barratt, 13. Andy Reay, 12. Mel Deane, 11. Charlie Amesbury, 10. Jeremy Staunton, 9. Steve So'oailo, 1. Ceri Jones, 2. James Hayter, 3. Mark Lambert, 4. Karl Rudzki, 5. Roy Winters, 6. Maama Molitika, 7. Luke Sherriff, 8. Tom Guest
Replacements: Marlow Warrington-Mattei, Tom Muggridge, Simon Miall, Ben Thomson, Gavin Hart, Duncan James, Adrian Jarvis
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.