At the fourth time of asking, NEC Harlequins secured their first win of the new Zurich Premiership season, with a 29-19 win over London Irish at the Stoop. With Quins leading 22-12 and the match in the final quarter, an interception try from Nick Greenstock sealed a much needed-victory for the home side and their first win over the Exiles since November 1999.
Quins went on the attack right from the kick-off and created an overlap down the left, but Nathan Williams pass went into touch as opposed to finding Ben Gollings. However, London Irish were offside and Paul Burke put the first points on the board by converting the penalty, though Barry Everitt responded in similar fashion for the visitors minutes later.
After both sides failed to make the most of opportunities they created, Quins retook the lead with 18 minutes on the clock. Tony Diprose won a lineout on the Exiles twenty-two and the pack drove their way up to the line. Ace Tiatia broke free from the maul and threw a pass out to Matt Moore, who had the space to dive over for the try in the right hand corner. Burke failed to convert, but made amends by kicking his second penalty of the game six minutes later to put Quins 11-3 in front.
Some excellent defence from the home side then continued to frustrate the Exiles, forcing Everitt to attempt a drop goal on 37 minutes. The fly half failed to find the target but made no mistake with a penalty 60 second later. With the game in first half injury time, Burke kicked his third penalty of the afternoon to restore Quins eight-point advantage at the interval, 14-8.
Everitt put the first points on the board after the restart by converting a penalty after Quins were penalised for being offside, though Quins hit back with their second try of the match.
After the pack was adjudged to have been held-up over the line following a catch and drive, Quins were awarded a five-metre scrum. Burke and half-back partner Scott Bemand combined before the ball went wide to Gollings. The England 7's player beat the challenge of opposite number Kevin Barrett and raced over for the score. Burke just failed to convert from the left hand touchline, but Quins now led by ten points (19-9).
David Slemen then replaced the injured Burke and he added a further three points to the Quins total with a drop goal after 56 minutes. Everitt cancelled this score out four minutes later when Quins were once again guilty of being offside, and the Exiles fly half successfully found the target with the penalty.
With 13 minutes left, Greenstock secured the Quins victory. After taking play deep into the hosts twenty-two, the Exiles sent the ball left to Everitt. His attempted chip over the top was gathered by the former England centre and he showed excellent pace to beat the chasing defenders and run-in for the try from fully 80 metres. Slemen converted from wide out and Quins now led by 29-12.
On 71 minutes, Pieter Rossouw scored the visitors only try of the game in the left hand corner, which Everitt converted to cut the deficit to ten points (29-19). But it was Quins who finished the stronger, though they were unable to cross for that all-important fourth try that would have secured them a bonus point.
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.