After building up a 10-0 lead early in the game, NEC Harlequins eventually lost out to Gloucester at Kingsholm by 29-23, to leave them still looking for their first league win of the season after six matches. Two second half tries from centre Terry Fanolua helped the home side to come away with the maximum five points, though a late penalty from Jeremy Staunton gave Quins the consolation of a bonus point their performance deserved.
Indeed it was Staunton who opened the scoring after just four minutes, when he converted the first of three penalties in the match, after Gloucester were penalised for being offside. Good work from Ugo Monye then set-up the chance for Quins to score the opening try of the contest.
After play was recycled through a number of phases, Gavin Duffy came into the line before diving over for the five points. Staunton converted from wide out and Quins had their ten-point advantage.
The Cherry and Whites put their first points on the board after 15 minutes of play. With Quins penalised for hands in the ruck, centre Henry Paul made no mistake with his kick at goal to make the score 3-10. Ten minutes later and the deficit was down to just two points as winger James Simpson-Daniel collected Duncan McRae's cross-field kick to touchdown in the corner for the home sides first try, though Paul missed the conversion.
Quins responded with a second Staunton penalty to give them a five point lead (13-8) as the game approached half-time. However, persistent pressure from the home side resulted in Paul touching down under the posts just three minutes before the interval and his successful conversion meant Gloucester were in front for the first time, with the score standing at 15-13 in their favour at the break.
Just two minutes after the restart and the hosts moved two scores ahead, as Fanolua claimed his first try after the forwards won a lineout deep inside the Quins twenty-two. The two points from Paul's conversion put Gloucester nine points ahead (22-13). Quins hit back nine minutes later and from Nick Easter's quickly taken free-kick, Will Greenwood was able to cut back inside to score under the posts. Staunton made no mistake with the simple conversion and the deficit between the sides was back to two points (22-20).
However, straight from the restart Gloucester went over for their fourth try of the afternoon that would effectively prove to be the match winning score. Hooker Olivier Azam made the crucial ground down the right flank and with the Quins defence stretched, Fanolua was allowed to touchdown for the second time in the match. Paul's conversion restored Gloucester's nine-point lead (29-20) with 30 minutes left to play.
Remarkably that's how the score remained until the last kick of the game, though Paul and Staunton both missed chances to extend their respective sides tally. Then in the last play of the game, Quins were awarded a penalty and with Staunton making amends for his earlier miss, the visitors picked up a bonus point from their afternoons work.
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.