Somewhere deep within the subconscious of Mark Andrews must have been lurking the need to make a mark on this World Cup weekend. There could be no other remotely sensible excuse for Newcastle's eminent South African lock, a Webb Ellis Cup winner in 1995, to get sent off during an otherwise forgettable match at The Stoop yesterday.
Sixty-five minutes had passed when Andrews, a veteran of 77 Tests and an outstanding performer in Newcastle's escape from relegation last season, got into an off-the-ball tussle with Harlequins' flanker, Pat Sanderson. The latter was probably not blameless, but while it takes two to tango, there is no dance-step to describe the daftness when Andrews clearly dropped a knee on his opponent.
The referee, Roy Maybank, acting on the advice of his touch judge, Steve Savage, who had enjoyed a perfect view of the incident, brought out a straight red card.
At that stage Newcastle were trailing 15-8, having scored the only try through their former Harlequin full-back, Ben Gollings. Frustratingly for the visitors, they had just brought on Epi Taione, in a bid to upset the forward-dominated nature of proceedings, when Andrews' dismissal severely dented their chances of victory. Paul Burke's sixth penalty goal, seven minutes from full time, gave Quins further breathing space, and a penalty in reply by Gollings earned Newcastle a bonus point while their hosts consolidated second place in the Premiership.
Andrews has had an eventful stay in England since his arrival in February. His debut was a win over Harlequins that kick-started a Newcastle revival, albeit that the Falcons' final placing of 10th was their worst since they were promoted in 1997. Two weeks ago he got a yellow card in a loss at Leicester. His powers of leadership, evident here in the way he combined with Garath Archer and Hugh Vyvyan to disrupt Quins' line-out, are becoming compromised.
In fact, Newcastle almost made up lost ground in added time, when Quins somehow left a gap while defending a line-out against a depleted pack, and the prop Ian Peel charged through, only to throw a pass into no-man's-land. But Burke's goal-kicking, exemplary once the fly-half had got one miss out of his system, saw Quins through.
They took the lead when Ugo Monye probed and Newcastle went offside at a ruck. Burke, a standby for Ireland's World Cup squad, made no mistake with his second attempt at the posts. Gollings levelled the scores, then Quins had to reshuffle after a knock to hooker Ace Tiatia, who gave way to Tani Fuga.
The replacement settled in quickly, and was at the heart of many of Quins' best moments, albeit that the vast majority of the action was concentrated between the respective 22s. A sequence of play just after the half hour summed up the game. Fuga had his line-out throw plucked out of the air by Vyvyan, only to steal the ball back when Newcastle left it unprotected on the ground. Quins moved swiftly left through Burke, Mel Deane and Josh Taumalolo, but Sanderson was unable to link with the waiting Monye.
Newcastle had an effective ball-carrier in Jon Dunbar, but their backs seemed to lack confidence without the absent Jonny Wilkinson. Burke pushed Quins out to 12-3 after 47 minutes, then Gollings scored at the left-hand corner after Michael Stephenson evaded Taumalolo's tackle.
The World Cup theme was continued before the end when some people (well, mainly overenthusiastic schoolchildren) came on the pitch, thinking it was all over. For Andrews, it already was.
Harlequins: G Duffy; R Jewell, J Taumalolo (A Dunne, 79), M Deane (S Keogh, 39), U Monye; P Burke, B Willis; C Jones (M Worsley, 53), A Tiatia (T Fuga, 17), L Gomez (J Dawson, 53), B Davison, J Evans, P Sanderson (R Winters, 76), T Diprose, A Vos (capt).
Newcastle: B Gollings; T May (J Shaw, 40), J Noon, M Mayerhofler, M Stephenson; P Godman, H Charlton (J Grindal, 68); I Peel, N Makin (M Thompson, 74), M Hurter (M Ward, 40), G Archer, M Andrews (capt), J Dunbar (E Taione, 64), H Vyvyan, W Britz (P Dowson, 80).
Referee: R Maybank (London).Reuse content