NEC Harlequins scored five tries, to claim five points, in an emphatic 42-15 victory over Newcastle Falcons in the Guinness Premiership at the Twickenham Stoop. David Strettle scored a hat-trick and there were also scores for Aston Croall and Mike Brown, as the hosts turned around a two-point deficit at the break (13-15) before scoring 29 unanswered points in the second half.
Quins started the brighter team with Andrew Mehrtens kicking a penalty to open the scoring inside the opening ten minutes, before prop froward Croall scored his first Premiership try for Quins. With the home side on the attack in the right hand corner, Newcastle centre Toby Flood was sin-binned for a professional foul and from the resulting lineout close to the visitors line, Croall was driven over for the score. Mehrtens added the extra points on offer to put Quins ten points ahead at the end of the first quarter.
However, two tries in quick succession from the visitors put them firmly back in contention. The first came when Newcastle opted to kick a penalty to touch and from the lineout, winger Tom May found space out wide and dived over in the right hand corner.
Although Flood missed the conversion it was just three minutes later when Quins conceded their second try. Newcastle's Eni Gesinde intercepted a loose pass from Mehrtens deep in the Newcastle half and broke away towards the Quins try line.
Brown chased back well and stopped the flanker in his tracks although it proved to be in vain as number eight Russell Winter was in support to touchdown under the posts. This time Flood was easily able to convert that saw the visitors take the lead for the first time in the game (10-12), before Mehrtens and Flood traded penalties to make the score 13-15 to the visitors at the halfway stage.
Quins made a cracking start to the second half as Strettle raced in for his opening try just four minutes after the restart. Chasing a loose ball which had been booted downfield by Stuart Abbott, Strettle picked up cleanly and after wriggling out of two attempted tackles, ran under the posts to give Mehrtens a simple conversion to put the home side back in front (20-15). Quins then enjoyed a sustained period of pressure deep in Newcastle's twenty-two that resulted in Mehrtens dropping a goal to open up a two-score lead (23-15) after 47 minutes.
Eight minutes later and after the Quins forwards and then Steve So'oialo were held-up on the Newcastle try line, the ball was recycled to the backs and resulted in Strettle diving over to score in the corner, though Mehrtens missed the difficult conversion from close to the touchline.
The home side secured their bonus point three minutes into the final quarter. So'oialo applied further pressure on the Falcons defence by quickly taking a tap penalty in the opposition half and bursting through their defence before offloading to Brown, who was in support to race away and touchdown under the posts unopposed. Replacement Adrian Jarvis added the two extra points on offer to put the result beyond doubt (35-15).
With two minutes remaining, Strettle danced his way over for his hat-trick from close range that Jarvis converted to complete the scoring in the match and give Quins the perfect start to the New Year.
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.