Harlequins kicked off their 2007/08 season with a 22-21 victory over Manu Samoa at the Twickenham Stoop. A Mike Brown penalty with the last kick of the game gave the home side their win, after the visitors scored 21 unanswered points to lead for the first time in the match going into the final quarter. However a debut try for John Brooks, adding to earlier touchdowns from Hal Luscombe and Tom Guest, put Quins back in contention before Brown won it at the death.
It was Quins who made the brighter start and they made the first impression on the scoreboard as early as the third minute. After turning over possession, a knock-on from the Samoans allowed Luscombe to hack forward and he was first to gather the loose ball allowing him to score in the corner. Seb Jewell added the two extra points by converting from the touchline to give the hosts a 7-0 lead.
Further pressure from Quins saw them double their advantage just seven minutes later. A patient build-up involving backs and forwards saw the home side take play deep into the Samoan twenty-two, before the ball went out to the left where Guest just had enough space to cross the line and claim the five points. Another fine touchline conversion from Jewell took Quins into a 14-point lead.
It could have got better for Quins had Jewell not seen his penalty attempt rebound off the post and back into play just before the start of the second quarter, while Guest made a fine covering tackle on Samoan winger Lome Faatau that brought to an end a thrilling break out from the visitors.
However, with Samoa growing in confidence as the half went on, they claimed their first try of the match six minutes before the interval. A sweeping move down the left flank resulted in winger Alesana Tuilagi being given an unopposed run-in under the posts from 20 metres out. Centre Gavin Williams made no mistake with the simple conversion that cut Quins lead to seven points at the halfway stage (14-7).
13 minutes after the restart and an interception from Tom Williams saw the winger take play into the Samoan twenty-two where Tosh Masson carried the move on. However, no sooner had Quins failed to capitalise on this opportunity than Samoa were back on level terms. Faatau made the crucial break into Quins territory before scrum half Junior Polu was given the scoring pass and was able to touchdown under the posts. Williams conversion leveled the score at 14-14.
Samoa then took the lead for the first time right at the start of the final quarter. Jewell made a try saving tackle on Tuilagi but with Quins guilty of being offside, a quickly taken penalty resulted in prop Census Johnston claiming the try that Williams converted to put the visitors into a seven point lead (14-21).
Quins responded minutes later, with Brooks claiming a score on his Club debut after being driven over from a lineout five metres from the Samoan line. Brown failed with the conversion attempt but made amends for this miss when it mattered most right on the stroke of full time.
A clever inside pass from Academy player Ryan Manyika allowed Chris Robshaw to make inroads into the Samoan twenty-two and with Quins being awarded a penalty at the breakdown, Brown made no mistake in adding the three points to give the hosts a victory by the narrowest of margins.
Final score, 22-21.
Harlequins: 15. Mike Brown, 14. Simon Keogh, 13. Hal Luscombe, 12. Tosh Masson, 11. Ugo Monye, 10. Seb Jewell, 9. Danny Care, 1. Ceri Jones, 2. Chris Brooker, 3. John Brooks, 4. Ollie Kohn, 5. Jim Evans (Capt.) 6. George Robson, 7. Chris Robshaw, 8. Tom Guest.
Replacements: 16. Aston Croall, 17, Ricky Nebett, 18. James Percival, 19. Nicolas Spanghero, 20 Phil Davies, 21. Ryan Manyika, 22 Charlie Amesbury, 23 Tom Williams
Manu Samoa: 15. David Lemi, 14. Lome Faatu, 13. Gavin William, 12. Elvis Sevialli, 11. Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Eliota Fuimaono Saplou, 9. Junior Polu. 1. Justin Va'a, 2. Siloa Vaisola Sefo, 3. Census Johnston, 4.Daniel Leo, 5 Filipo Levi, 6. Justin Purdie, 7 Ulia Ulia, 8. Semo Sititi (Capt.)
Replacements: 16. Muliufi Salanoa, 17. Donald Kerslake, 18. Iosefa Tekori, 19. Leo Lafaialii, 20 Lolo Lui, 21. Jerry Meafou, 22. Seilala Mapusua
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.