Saturday, 25th March 2017 @ 15:00
Harlequins conceded an early try but bounced back with seven of their own in a 53-17 bonus point win over Newcastle Falcons at The Stoop.
Sonatane Takulua scored within the opening three minutes for the visitors before Quins struck back with tries to Rob Buchanan, Mike Brown and Joe Marchant. A perfect day with the boot from Nick Evans helped them to a 27-10 lead at the break.
In the second spell Marland Yarde quickly picked up the bonus point try before the Londoners ran rampant in front of a sold out Stoop. Tries to Mat Luamanu, Danny Care and Tim Swiel capped off a memorable 53-17 win that moved Quins up to sixth place in the Aviva Premiership table.
Harlequins had arrived at The Stoop boosted by the return of 13 injured or international players. They continued to be led out by Dave Ward who captained a veteran side featuring eight past club Captains.
It was a feisty Newcastle side that started on top soon as Takulua was on hand to score under the posts as Falcons broke clean through the middle within three minutes.
With an experienced side on the pitch the early score did not rattle the visitors as they worked their way down field to get themselves on the scoreboard. They settled with a penalty initially before their opening try soon followed.
Quick defence from the home side led to Tim Visser latching onto a loose ball, two phases later Luamanu broke a tackle and offloaded to hooker Buchanan to go in under the posts. Evans converted to give his side a 10-7 lead after a quarter of an hour.
Quins were back to their old ways, highlighted in the first half by a trademark Care tap and go that made him 25 plus metres through the middle of the park.
Minutes later the high tempo brand of rugby paid off as quick hands through the backline saw Brown, Marchant and Visser all connect before the fullback got the ball back and ran in for a 17-7 lead.
With half an hour gone Newcastle closed the gap with a penalty of their own but John Kingston’s men soon put the match to bed after a high tackle from Juan Pablo Socino saw him shown a yellow card. Quins capitalising three times with the centre in the sin bin.
First Evans kicked his second penalty before a Marchant intercept on the stroke of half-time gave the visitors a 27-10 lead at the break.
Within minutes of the second half getting underway, and before Pablo Socino could rejoin the fray, Yarde picked up the bonus point try after a sensational break from Brown. Evans added the extras and the contest was all but over as Quins led 34-10.
The fly-half, back from injury, continued to impress helped with the wind behind his back. At one point he delicately saved a ball from sailing into touch with only millimetres between him and the paint, before ripping off 50 metres with the boot to force Newcastle back into their own ten metres.
The score line soon ballooned out further as Falcons were shown their second yellow card. Care took another quick tap from a penalty, and Evan Olmstead was pinged for not retreating as he tackled the England scrum-half. The resulting line out set up the maul and Luamanu would crash over to make it 41-10 with 50 minutes played.
Care then picked up a try of his own, with Brown again involved as he sliced through the defence before the scrum-half dived over from close range. Evans kicked his eighth goal of the match, from eight attempts and he was given a standing ovation as he left the field just before the hour mark.
Down 48-10, Falcons did not throw in the towel and were rewarded with a try from close range to Mark Wilson but Quins would have the final say in the encounter. The matchday captain Dave Ward working hard in defence as he stripped the ball in the tackle before Marchant kicked ahead for replacement Swiel to score his side’s seventh and make it 53-17.
The bonus point win sees Harlequins move to sixth on the Aviva Premiership table with just four rounds to play. They have an identical run in to Northampton Saints who sit one place below them as the race for European Rugby Champions Cup qualification heats up.
Harlequins now have a week off before a London derby against Saracens at Wembley in a fortnight’s time. With home matches against Exeter Chiefs and Wasps to follow, the league is set for a thrilling conclusion.
Tickets for Harlequins’ final two regular season home matches are on sale now and can be purchased by clicking here.