Harlequins 21 Newcastle Falcons 23

Sunday, 4th November 2018 @ 15:00

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Harlequins suffer their first defeat of the Premiership Rugby Cup campaign.

The home side came out of the blocks fast with Outside centre Francis Saili almost taking a dramatic catch from the kick-off from fly-half Demetri Catrakillis. Having won possession in the Newcastle 22, Quins took the ball from off the top of the lineout and spread it wide to Number Eight Alex Dombrandt who punched a hole in the Falcons line, giving his side early momentum. The forwards continued to smash the ball up, however an unfortunate knock-on from second row George Merrick halted their progress, and the visitors were able to clear. 

Harlequins’ first defensive set was equally impressive, with huge hits flying in from Loosehead prop Lewis Boyce and Flanker Archie White in the narrow channels, who eventually forced a penalty for their efforts. Having kicked down field for the lineout, Lang received the ball just outside the Falcons’ 22 and made a half break. This sustained pressure eventually paid off for the home team, with Catrakilis scoring the first points of the game from a penalty.

Newcastle were quick to respond, winning a penalty virtually straight from the restart inside the Quins half. Fly-half Brett Connon stepped up to level the scores for his side at the 14-minute mark.

More powerful defence from the home team from the kick-off allowed them to regain possession and, following a clever kick from the debutant scrum-half Niall Saunders and a spirited chase from Cadan Murley and Ross Chisholm, Quins again found themselves in the Falcons 22. The home side opted to keep the ball in hand and rumble on through the forwards, with George Merrick and Dave Ward leading the charge. Following a pick-and-go from the Falcons five-metre line, Boyce appeared to have the first try of the match, however following a TMO review, play was called back for an earlier knock-on from the prop himself. Despite missing out on a try, the home side rallied and won a penalty a couple of phases later, giving Catrakilis the chance to regain the lead for his side at the 22-minute mark.

Again, Newcastle started fast from the restart and put the home side under immediate pressure inside their 22, but more stern defence from Tim Visser and the back row won Quins a turnover, giving Catrakilis another opportunity to relieve the pressure. This was only temporary though, as the visitors themselves won a penalty in the subsequent phase, allowing Connon to level the scores at 6-6.

The Falcons seemed to now have the momentum, and following a Quins mistake from their own kick-off, openside Connor Collett kicked the ball along the ground to the home side’s 22, and after a strong chase from the forwards, inside centre Pedro Bettencourt ran over for the first try of the match at 33 minutes. With a successful drop goal conversion from Connon, the visitors led by seven at half-time.

In the second half, the home team scored first through the boot of Catrakilis on the 49 minute mark to bring his side back to within four points. The Quins backs division was starting to look more and more impressive with Francis Saili and Paul Lasike winning their collisions.

Despite this early momentum, Falcons again managed to respond when replacement Ben Stevenson got on the end of a wayward pass from Demetri Catrakilis in the midfield and scored another Newcastle try. With another conversion from Connon, the visitors led by 11 after 52 minutes.

The home side needed to respond quickly and, following some more muscular defence from the pack, Quins found themselves on the Falcons five-metre with the put-in to the scrum. After a couple of tight phases, Lewis Boyce again drove over the line, this time earning the full five points for his side. Despite a missed conversion attempt from Catrakillis, Quins were now within six points at 14-20.

Then, straight from the kick-off, Centre Saili, who was looking more and more dangerous with each passing minute, made another break from inside his own half and pushed on down to the Falcons’ 22. The visitors then conceded another penalty at the ruck, and following a piercing touch-find from Catrakilis, number eight Dombrandt went over for his second try for the Club in as many weeks. With the conversion this time slotted, Quins had the lead by 21 points to 20 with 18 minutes remaining.

However after 69 minutes Quins conceded a penalty at the scrum on their own 10-metre giving replacement fly-half, and former Harlequin Tim Swiel, a shot at goal. Despite being within his range, the kick went wide, giving Quins the chance to clear their lines at the 22-metre dropout. Tremendous defensive pressure from Falcons in a subsequent phase, however, gave Swiel a second shot at the sticks, this time from a much shorter range. The fly-half stepped up and took the points, giving his side the lead with the clock running down.

Despite more spirited play from the hosts, Falcons were able to close it out for a narrow victory, leaving Harlequins with it all to do in the Premiership Rugby Cup with remaining pool matches against Exeter and Saracens.

Following Saturday's match away to Exeter Chiefs, Harlequins will return to The Stoop on Friday 16th November to host today's opponents in the Gallagher Premiership (kick-off 19:45). Tickets are available at tickets.quins.co.uk


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