It was a well-deserved 24-12 win for Harlequins against Bristol Bears in front of a large crowd to kick-off the Club’s 2019/20 campaign.
Both sides came in to the fixture after an unusually long pre-season, but despite a lack of match-time, Harlequins’ pre-season attacking focus paid off with two beautifully converted tries from full-back Aaron Morris and a late Charlie Mulchrone score on his long-awaited return from injury.
Debutant Brett Herron opened the scoring with a nicely struck penalty for a 3-0 lead after three minutes, with the first try of the game coming 10 minutes later and Morris getting the first of his brace after an excellent turnover of play.
Around the 30-minute mark, the atmosphere in The Stoop continued to grow, with over 9,000 supporters welcoming the players back to the Stadium. The match gained momentum, especially after an extremely lively Gabriel Ibitoye showed-off his impressive pace during a quick break down the flank, but his grubber kick bounced into touch just short of the line.
It wasn’t long until another score for the home side, with Aaron Morris securing his second of the night, after a beautiful break from scrum-half Charlie Mulchrone to set Morris over the line. New signing Brett Herron added the two from the tee.
Just on the stroke of half time, Bristol winger Tom Pincus crossed the line following a well-executed cross-field kick. However, the conversion bounced off the post and the Harlequins took a 17-5 lead into the break.
The second half saw a plethora of the Club’s new faces make their debut at The Stoop, including front-rowers Simon Kerrod and Santiago Garcia Botta who made an immediate impact, teaming up instantly as Kerrod offloaded the ball to Garcia Botta, setting up Mulchrone to break away again.
Quins continued to show their impressive line speed in the final parts of the match, with flanker Tom Lawday wowing the crowd with a lovely sprint after capitalising on the loose ball.
Further debuts came from Toby Freeman, Jack Musk and Louis Lynagh as Quins rounded off the match with a 77th minute try as a result of further strong running from Gabriel Ibitoye, who set-up Man of the Match Charlie Mulchrone.
There was a last-minute consolation try for Bristol as Pincus once again broke through the defensive line to end the match 24-12.
Particular praise from Harlequins’ Head of Rugby went to new signing Will Evans, with Paul Gustard commenting on the flanker’s performance: “I think Will Evans was outstanding, his defensive effort and pressure of the ball was outstanding, he carried the ball well.
Reflecting on the win, Gustard added: “I am pleased with the effort, for most part anyway. I thought that our attack and defence performance had moved forward from last year, but we spilled the ball too many times for my liking and didn’t manage to convert as many opportunities as we should have done.
“We outscored them, simply. We dominated possession in terms of how many phases of play. They came with a narrow game plan, possibly through their team selection, and went for a more structured game plan.”
Commenting on Man of the Match Charlie Mulchrone, Gustard concluded: “Charlie did really well. Charlie does what Charlie does. He’s committed to the team, that’s why I want him at the Club; he’s a great human being and character and the personality we want. He played a really fine game.”
Harlequins face London Irish next weekend at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday 28 September, before returning to The Stoop on Saturday 5 October against Gloucester. Tickets are available at tickets.quins.co.uk