A try from Luke Sherriff in the fourth minute of injury time gave NEC Harlequins a 26-19 victory over Ulster in their pre-season friendly at Ravenhill Park. After conceding two tries in the opening 15 minutes, Quins fought back and tries from Ceri Jones, Steve So'oailo and Andy Reay meant the two sides were locked together at 19 points apiece going into the closing stages, before a fine finish from Sherriff settled the outcome in the final play of the game.
Ulster started the stronger of the two sides and took advantage of an overthrown lineout to score the opening try after just three minutes, with flanker Neil Best going over. Fly half Paddy Wallace added the conversion and the home side led by 7-0. Ten minutes later and a chip from Wallace through the Quins defence saw winger Andrew Maxwell beat Andy Dunne to the touch down. With Wallace again on target with the conversion, Ulster led 14-0 after 13 minutes and the signs were looking ominous for the visitors.
However, Quins registered their first points on the scoreboard four minutes later. Dunne opted for a kick to touch from a penalty and took play deep into Ulster's twenty-two. Tani Fuga threw long to Kai Horstmann at the lineout and in a well practiced move, Jones crashed over the line to reduce the deficit. Dunne failed to add the two extra points on offer, which meant Quins trailed 14-5 going into the second quarter.
Five minutes before half-time and Quins scored their second try of the night. Hortsmann won a lineout five metres from the Ulster line and offloaded to Fuga running round the back of the set-piece. The hooker had fellow Samoan So'oailo in support, who finished the move off by going over to the left of the posts. Dunne's successful conversion cut the home sides advantage to just two points (14-12) at the break.
Jeremy Staunton had the opportunity to put Quins in front ten minutes after the restart, but he saw his penalty attempt drift wide of the target. Some excellent defence from the visitors then prevented Ulster from stretching their lead and it wasn't until 18 minutes from the end that the first points of the second half were scored.
Good breaks from So'oialo and Henry Barratt took play up to the halfway line, where Gavin Duffy made ground before passing to Simon Keogh. The winger went round his man before offloading to Reay, who showed great pace to run in for the try from 35 metres. Staunton's conversion was good, which meant Quins led for the first time in the match by 19-14.
Back came the home side and after some excellent passages of play, the ball went right to replacement Andy Ward who was unstoppable and crashed over in the right hand corner. Crucially, the conversion was missed and the scores were tied 19-19 with 12 minutes left to play.
Ulster continued to put pressure on the Quins line and Maama Molitika was shown a yellow card for deliberately killing the ball with just three minutes remaining. The visitors managed to clear the danger though and Quins then won a lineout just inside the Ulster half.
A quick throw to the front of the set-piece led to So'oialo making a good break. Sherriff then took the ball up at pace and just when it looked like he would be tackled, the flanker produced a dainty chip over the defence, ran through and collected it himself to score to the left of the posts. Staunton converted and it was immediately followed by the final whistle.
Final score, 19-26.
By Duncan Franklin.
Ulster XV: 15. Bryn Cunningham, 14. James Topping, 13. Shane Stewart, 12. Adam Larkin, 11. Andrew Maxwell, 10. Paddy Wallace, 9. Kieran Campbell, 1. Ronan McCormack, 2. Paul Shields, 3. Rod Moore, 4. Matt Mustchin, 5. Rowan Frost, 6. Neil Best, 7. Neil McMillan (Capt.), 8. Campbell Feather
Replacements: Jonathan Bell, Seamus Mallon, Tommy Bowe, Neil Doak, Andy Ward, Michael McComish, Matt McCullough, Tim Barker, Simon Shawe, Nigel Brady, Bryan Young
NEC Harlequins XV: 15. Gavin Duffy, 14. Henry Barrett, 13. Jeremy Staunton, 12. Andy Reay, 11. Simon Keogh, 10. Andy Dunne, 9. Steve So'oialo, 1. Ceri Jones, 2. Tani Fuga, 3. Jon Dawson, 4. Karl Rudzki, 5. Roy Winters, 6. Maama Molitika, 7. Luke Sherriff (Capt.), 8. Kai Hortsmann
Replacements: James Hayter, Mike Worsley, Mark Lambert, Simon Miall, Ace Tiatia, Tony Diprose, Andre Vos, Adrian Jarvis, Mel Deane, Mike Brown
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.