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Aviva Premiership: Harlequins leave it late to edge past struggling Newcastle
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Two late penalties from Ben Botica gave Harlequins a scarcely-deserved 18-14 Aviva Premiership win over lowly Newcastle at the Stoop.
Quins were trailing 14-12 with five minutes to go before those Botica penalties broke Newcastle's hearts.
For much of the game, the visitors were the better side; they were dominant in the scrum but could only manage one try through Alex Tait.
Rory Clegg kicked three penalties but crucially missed three which would have given his side a vital win in their battle against relegation.
An out-of-sorts Quins had to rely on tries from Ollie Lindsay-Haque and Sam Smith and eight points from the boot of Botica to give maintain their fourth position in the league table.
Harlequins were deprived of their England squad members and were also without fly-half Nick Evans with a toe injury.
Newcastle's director of rugby Dean Richards returned to the Stoop for the first time for a competitive match since the infamous fake blood scandal and he recalled Scotland internationals Mike Blair and Scott Lawson to the starting line-up.
Newcastle made a bright start but it was Quins who should have taken the lead after five minutes only for Botica to fail with a straightforward penalty attempt.
Minutes later, Botica appeared to be given another chance from a similar position but Quins chose a more attacking option. They elected for an attacking line-out and were immediately rewarded when, following strong runs from Jordan Turner-Hall and Ugo Monye, Lindsay-Hague was able to stroll through a large gap in the visitors' defence for the opening try.
Lindsay-Hague's try was the only score of the opening quarter, with both sides making elementary handling errors as they struggled to come to terms with the swirling wind.
The next 10 minutes saw Newcastle build up a head of steam, with centre Jamie Helleur twice breaching the home defence following neat passes from former Harlequin Clegg.
However ill-discipline prevented them from opening their account and worse was to follow when their captain Will Welch was sin-binned for dragging down a maul.
Quins took immediate advantage with Smith forcing his way over from close range for a try which Botica converted before Clegg put his side on the scoreboard with a well struck penalty into the wind.
Welch returned in time to see Clegg hit a post with another penalty attempt but despite this miss, Newcastle remained in contention at the interval, being only 12-3 behind.
With the wind now in their favour, Newcastle must have fancied their chances of an upset and were soon boosted by two successful penalties from Clegg to reduce the arrears to only three points.
For the first 15 minutes of the second half, Quins failed to get out of their own half and alarm bells started ringing for them when they were shunted backwards at a scrum and were penalised but Clegg's penalty again rebounded back off a post.
The home side reacted swiftly by making three substitutions in their front five in an attempt to stem the tide. A brilliant piece of skill from Botica saw him hoist an up-and-under and collect it to send Nick Easter racing into the opposition 22 but the number eight did not have enough pace to see off the cover defence.
This passage of play seemed briefly to rejuvenate Quins but it was only temporary as Newcastle produced their best movement of the match to see them go ahead with 10 minutes to go. Excellent passing sent Noah Cato flying down the right wing and Scott Lawson made a crucial burst to maintain the pressure, which ended with Tait just having enough impetus to squeeze over the line.
Clegg missed the conversion and it proved costly as with five minutes to go, Lawson was penalised and yellow-carded. Botica kicked the resulting penalty and another one with the last kick of the match to secure a fortunate win.Aviva Premiership. Click here to bet.
|Friday 13th February|
|19:45||Leicester vs Gloucester|
|19:45||Northampton vs London Irish|
|Saturday 14th February|
|16:30||Exeter vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 15th February|
|13:00||Saracens vs Bath|
|14:00||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Sale|
|Friday 20th February|
|19:45||Newcastle vs Wasps|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:00||Sale vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Exeter|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Bath vs Northampton|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|14:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th February|
|19:45||Leicester vs Sale|
|19:45||Northampton vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||London Welsh vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Newcastle|
|15:15||Exeter vs Bath|
|Sunday 1st March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Gloucester|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:45||Bath vs Sale|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs London Irish|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Saracens|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
|Sunday 4th January|
|London Welsh 13 - 24 Harlequins|
|Wasps 41 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Leicester 17 - 8 Bath|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|Exeter 25 - 26 Gloucester|
|Saracens 22 - 6 London Irish|
|Friday 2nd January|
|Northampton 39 - 31 Newcastle|
|Sunday 28th December|
|Gloucester 23 - 30 Wasps|
|Saturday 27th December|
|Harlequins 25 - 30 Northampton|
|Newcastle 23 - 25 Saracens|
|Bath 31 - 14 Exeter|
|Sale Sharks 30 - 32 Leicester|
|Friday 26th December|
|London Irish 24 - 9 London Welsh|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Wasps 48 - 16 London Irish|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Gloucester 16 - 39 Bath|
|Northampton 23 - 19 Leicester|
|Saracens 78 - 7 London Welsh|
|Harlequins 15 - 7 Newcastle|
|Friday 19th December|
|Sale 18 - 11 Exeter|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com