Rugby Union: Rees puts on virtuoso display to claim day for Quins

Newcastle 15 Harlequins 16
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The Independent Online
GARETH REES, that man of many parts since he set out on rugby's long and winding road with Oak Bay Castaways, became a man of all the colours when he inspired Harlequins to victory with a virtuoso performance at Kingston Park yesterday. The Canadian has bulked up a bit since he appeared as a Harrow schoolboy for Wasps in a Twickenham Cup final, and he is not as mobile as he once was, but the Rees rugby brain is still as active as ever.

Not only did Rees score all Quins' points, but his tactical adroitness in the second half was something to behold. He kept Newcastle pinned in their own half with his skilful use of a diagonal wind, to ensure that if Newcastle were going to attack, it would only be from long range.

Having being rolled over by Treviso in the European Cup at The Stoop last week, Quins decided they were going to have to roll up their sleeves if they were to recover from that lamentable effort. They did so with a marvellous defensive display - Pat Sanderson was quite outstanding - which, added to Rees's spectacular contribution, was just enough to earn them the three League points.

Newcastle had sufficient possession to have won, but they lacked the essential creativity in midfield; a problem they are clearly aware of if rumours that they are about to sign the Scotland centre, John Leslie, are to be believed. At crucial moments, too, Newcastle failed to do the obvious, allowing Quins to snuff out the threat with their insistent cover tackling.

Jonny Wilkinson had given Newcastle the lead with two penalties; one from 45 metres and the other from nearer the posts, before Rees cut into it with a neat dropped goal after Sanderson had made the most of a rare Wilkinson handling mistake and hacked the loose ball to within a few feet of the Newcastle line. That was as near as either team came to scoring a try, Newcastle having the last word of the half when Wilkinson slotted his third penalty, though they ought to have made more of three vigorous assaults on the Quins' line.

Now it was Rees's turn to do the talking. First he banged over a penalty, then he took a sweet inside pass from Huw Harries and, with a turn of speed which surprised himself, he made it to the posts, converted and Harlequins took the lead they were never to lose.

Wilkinson did strike another two penalties. But in between those scores Rees struck again with his second penalty to leave Newcastle without a win in the Premiership. Even if Leslie does join them, it is going to be a long season.

Newcastle: Penalties Wilkinson 5. Harlequins: Try Rees; Conversion Rees; Penalties Rees 2; Drop goal Rees.

Newcastle: P Massey; J Naylor (J Noon, 64), M Shaw, P Baird, V Tuigamala; J Wilkinson, H Crane (A Chilten, 64); G Graham, R Nesdale, M Hurter, S Grimes, D Weir (J Rule, h-t), H Vyvyan, R Arnold (capt), P Walton (J Cartmell, 64).

Harlequins: D O'Leary; J Keyter, D Officer, J Schuster, P Mensah; G Rees, H Harries; J Leonard, T Murphy (S Mitchell, 62), D Barnes (R Mathiason, 19), G Morgan, G Llewellyn (S White-Cooper, 56), R Jenkins, P Sanderson, Z Brooke (capt).

Referee: N Yates (Manchester).