NEC Harlequins finally ended their losing streak in the Zurich Premiership with an excellent 33-19 victory over Newcastle Falcons at the Stoop. Better still, by scoring four tries in the match Quins secured the maximum five points and moved off the bottom of the Premiership table as Leeds Tykes lost to Northampton Saints at Franklins Gardens. A try from Steve White-Cooper on the stroke of half-time gave Quins a much-needed seven point advantage at the break (20-13). The boot of Jonny Wilkinson kept Newcastle in touch, but second half tries from Chris Bell and Luke Sherriff gave Quins their first league win since mid-November last year.
Quins made an excellent start to the game and took the lead in the opening minute. Bell drove play through the midfield and Newcastle were penalised for being offside. Paul Burke converted the resulting penalty and Quins led 3-0. Five minutes later and the home side went over for their first try of the game. Taking a lineout five metres from the Newcastle line, the pack drove their way forward and Adrian Olver went over for the score and his second try of the season. Burke converted from wide out and Quins were 10-0 in front.
Back came Newcastle and with the game only nine minutes old, they scored their only try of the game. Wilkinson danced his way round three defenders before off-loading to centre Michael Stephenson, who had the pace to beat the covering defence and run-in for the score. Wilkinson converted and then added a drop goal to his tally four minutes later to make the score 10-10. Burke's response was immediate as he kicked his second penalty of the afternoon straight from the restart but Wilkinson responded in similar fashion to level the scores once again, 13-13, as the game entered the second quarter.
Tony Diprose then went close to getting Quins second try of the match, but his bulldozing run ended when he was bundled into touch just inches from the line. Further Quins pressure finally resulted in a try for White-Cooper just before the interval. Ben Gollings and Rob Jewell both made ground before the ball went to Will Greenwood. The England centre spotted White-Cooper in acres of space out on the left and his perfectly weighted cross-field kick was taken by the second row, who had the simple task of touching down unopposed. Burke added the two extra points on offer and Quins went into half-time 20-13 in front.
Newcastle put the first points on the board in the second half, with Wilkinson kicking a second drop goal after 44 minutes, but nine minutes later Bell scored a crucial try. Intercepting a pass from Newcastle's Hall Charlton, the young centre showed great pace and strength to hold-off two defenders and run 75 metres for a try in the right-hand corner. Burke failed to convert but made amends by kicking his third penalty of the afternoon as the game approached the final quarter that gave Quins a 12-point advantage, 28-16. Wilkinson cut the deficit to nine points with his second penalty of the game a minute later, though Quins secured the victory and a bonus point with 16 minutes left to play.
Burke turned down the option of three points and put a penalty into touch metres from the Newcastle line. Alex Codling won the lineout and the pack rolled their way forward allowing Sherriff, on for the injured Tu Tamarua, to force his way over for the five points. Burke failed to convert but Quins now had a 14 point lead, 33-19. The home sides defence then held firm in the time that remained and the final whistle was greeted by a huge cheer from the home crowd.
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.