At the third time of asking, Harlequins defeated London Irish in the London Double Header at Twickenham to start the new Guinness Premiership season with a win. Two tries in each half meant Quins also came away with the maximum five points in a victory by 35-27. On his Quins Premiership debut, Chris Malone was named man-of-the-match, scoring a personal tally of 15 points in addition to setting up both second half tries.
Indeed, it was Malone who opened the scoring after nine minutes by converting the first of three penalties in the match, after he was on the receiving end of a late tackle. Further Irish indiscipline resulted in hooker David Paice being sin-binned for an off the ball incident six minutes later, which was closely followed by Quins claiming the opening try of the match. From a lineout five metres from the Irish line, the Quins pack patiently drove play forward before Ollie Kohn bulldozed his way over from close range. Despite Malone missing the conversion, Quins had an eight-point lead.
The Exiles opened their account right at the end of the first quarter, with fly half Jeremy Staunton converting a penalty to cut the deficit by three points. However, just eight minutes later and Jordan Turner-Hall scored a fine individual try. The young centre took the ball just inside the Irish twenty-two, brushed aside an attempted takle before racing away to touchdown under the posts unopposed that presented Malone with a simple conversion and make the score 15-3.
Staunton kicked his second penalty straight from the restart but it was Quins who dominated the rest of the half, despite failing to add to their tally. Ugo Monye was sent clear down the left flank after Quins broke out from their own try line, only for Exiles full back Delon Armitage to make a try saving tackle deep in his own twenty-two, while Malone saw a penalty attempt hit the post and fall the wrong side of the target with the last kick of the half.
However, Quins did extend their advantage just four minutes after the restart. Once again, the pack drove play up to the Irish line, before a perfectly weighted cross-field kick from Malone to the right hand corner allowed Tom Williams to touchdown for the five points. Malone converted from wide out to put Quins 18-points ahead (22-6).
Irish hit back with their opening try on 52 minutes. The Quins pack were unable to halt a rolling maul close to their own line, with Paice claiming the score that Staunton converted to cut the deficit to nine points once again (22-13). Quins response was immediate with Malone converting a penalty, before Hal Luscombe scored the bonus point try just before the start of the final quarter.
The Quins pack laid the platform deep in the Irish twenty-two, before a cleverly weighted chip over the top of the Irish defence allowed Luscombe to race through, gather the loose ball and touchdown under the posts. Malone made no mistake with the easy conversion to make the score 32-13 with 20 minutes to play.
After Williams made a try saving tackle on winger Topsy Ojo, replacement flanker Steffon Armitage burst through to score by the posts for a try Staunton converted with ten minutes left on the clock. However, any thoughts Irish had of claiming an unlikely win evaporated six minutes later as Malone landed a long-range penalty to put Quins back into a three score lead (35-20), although Richard Thorpe claimed a consolation try for the Exiles in the last play of the game with Staunton's successful conversion being immediately followed by the final whistle.
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.