England Sevens coach Joe Lydon was a more than interested spectator at Aldershot last night as a young NEC Harlequins 2nd XV notched a very impressive 37-24 victory over an Army side, with more than its fair share of Fijians on display.
Nick Duncombe, part of the England line-up in the Commonwealth Games held in Manchester in August, made a welcome return to the Quins colours and probably booked himself into first team contention with a classy display at scrum half; full of pace, vision and swagger.
But 19 year-old flying winger Ugo Monye was equally eye-catching scoring a brace of tries in the opening 12 minutes that set Quins on their way.
It was not all one way traffic however, and the Army had some stand-out guys themselves with full back Emossi Naisaramaki and lock Denny Delaitamana as impressive as anything seen in the Premiership.
Adrian Jarvis put Quins ahead with a fifth minute penalty, and two minutes later England scrum half Duncombe showed his class by setting up Monye for a run. He powered home in a very quick 55 metre dash to the line to leave Quins 8-0 ahead.
But the Army refused to get overawed and hit back with a classy try of their own. Naisaramaki began the move deep into his own half, but once he had worked a head of steam and broke the first line of defence, Quins were on the back foot.
Rob Scurther and Delaitamana showed good handling skills as hooker Finlay Bibby was put into space for a try that Dan Cohen converted to suddenly peg Quins back to only a point (8-7).
Monye added a second try two minutes later following good work from Andrew Reay and Tom Williams and Cohen completed the 23 point scoring burst with a penalty to cut Quins lead back again, leaving the visitors only three points clear (13-10).
Quins extended their lead with a pushover score from former Oxford University graduate Simon Miall, one of two former Blues in the side, that Jarvis converted, before the half ended with another bout of scoring.
Sainey bounced his way off defenders to spin in close to the posts for a try converted by replacement fly-half Jim Fouch, to put the Army back into contention once again, before Williams was put into space following good work from Duncombe and Rob Jewell. Jarvis again converted to see Quins turnaround 27-17 ahead.
Duncombe capped his return to match action to add a try immediately after the break, completing a move that began from Karl Rudzki securing the restart before transferring the ball through four pairs of hands for Duncombe to open his try count for the season.
Thereafter it was a question of plenty of hustle and bustle as both teams made a series of changes, before the Army reduced the gap when Delaitamana was driven over in the far right hand corner following a five metre lineout. Fouch converting from wide out to make it 32-24, and they may have scored again seven minutes later from another catch and drive but were penalised for crossing during the move.
Quins sealed their win two minutes from time when on-loan veteran hooker Greg Botterman touched down after Quins showed that their own catch and driving play was up to scratch following a lineout close to the Army line.
A useful work out for both sides and perhaps Joe Lydon came away from the night with something to smile about as well?
Army XV: 6 min - try Bibby, con Cohen (7-8), 16 min - pen Cohen (10-13), 37 min - try Sainey, con Fouch (17-20), 55 min - try Delaitamana, con Fourie (24-32)
NEC Harlequins 2nd XV: 5 min - pen Jarvis (0-3), 7 min - try Monye (0-8), 12 min - try Monye (7-13), 30 min - try Miall, con Jarvis (10-20), 39 min - try Williams, con Jarvis (17-27), 41 min - try Duncombe (17-32), 78 min try - Botterman (17-37)
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.