NEC Harlequins scored four tries in a 28-15 victory over Northampton Saints in the first leg of the Zurich A League final at the Stoop last night (Monday 12th April). However, the hosts failed to make the most of a number of excellent scoring opportunities they created and a converted try from Saints centre Andy Vilk nine minutes from the end cut Quins advantage to 13 points at the final whistle.
The visitors had the chance to open the scoring after seven minutes but fly half Ben Russell failed to convert the penalty attempt on offer. With the second quarter approaching, Quins scored the opening try of the night through Bill Davison. Andy Reay took play deep into Northampton's twenty-two before Scott Bemand was stopped inches from the line. Davison was in support to take the scoring pass from the scrum half and power his way over for the score, which Adrian Jarvis converted.
A penalty from Russell made the score 7-3 after 29 minutes but Quins stretched their lead by a further five points a minute before half-time. From a lineout just inside the Saints twenty-two, the pack drove play up to the line where Bemand peeled off down the blind side and Rob Jewell bundled his way over in the corner. Jarvis failed with the conversion from wide out that meant Quins led 12-3 at the break.
Jarvis added three points to Quins tally from a penalty four minutes after the restart, but pressure from the visitors then resulted in them scoring their first try of the match. Scrum half John Howard benefited from a quickly taken penalty five metres out to burrow his way over. Russell failed to add the two extra points on offer, but the visitors now trailed by just seven points (15-8).
Quins responded with two tries in quick succession as the match entered the final quarter. Captain Luke Sherriff finished off a lovely move that started with Jarvis and Tom Williams making ground deep into Northampton territory, before Kai Hortsmann gave Sherriff the scoring pass with the flanker going over in the left hand corner.
Just two minutes later and Williams again made excellent ground down the left flank and Chris Bell's cross-field kick was weighted perfectly for Henry Barratt, who had the simple task of catching the ball and touching down for the try. After failing to convert either score, Jarvis kicked a penalty with 12 minutes left on the clock to put Quins 28-8 in front.
However, it was Northampton who had the last word and Vilk broke through the midfield to run-in unopposed for a try under the posts that Russell converted to make the final score 28-15 in Quins favour.
NEC Harlequins: 15. Tom Williams, 14. Rob Jewell, 13. Chris Bell, 12. Andy Reay, 11. Henry Barratt, 10. Adrian Jarvis, 9. Scott Bemand, 1. Ceri Jones, 2. James Hayter, 3. Laurent Gomez, 4. Karl Rudzki, 5. Bill Davison, 6. Chris Cracknell, 7. Luke Sherriff (Capt.), 8. Kai Hortsmann
Replacements: 16. Cameron Dott, 17. Tom Muggridge, 18. Tom Guest, 19. Gavin Hart, 20. Ben Willis, 21. Sean Crowley, 22. Mike Brown
Northampton Saints: 15. Ben Patston, 14. Oriol Ripol, 13. Ed Binham, 12. Andy Vilk, 11. James Brooks, 10. Ben Russell, 9. John Howard (Capt.), 1. Chris Budgen, 2. Matt Miles, 3. Tevita Taumoepeau, 4. Ed O'Donoughue, 5. John Phillips, 6. Brett McNamme, 7. Kort Schubert, 8. Mark Soden
Replacements: 16. Brett Sturgess, 17. James Ross, 18. Grant Seely, 19. James Ball, 20. Ben Jones, 21. Chris Hyndman, 22. John Clarke
Tries: Howard, Vilk
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.