First-half blitz leaves Quins dreaming of Twickenham

Harlequins 31 Newcastle 12
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The Independent Online

After the truly mighty Quins ran in the second of their quintet of first-half tries at the sold-out Stoop on Saturday, the man on the public address system announced: "Quins 12 Leicester...er, sorry, Newcastle 0." If the over-excited chap was getting somewhat ahead of himself, there was no danger of Dean Richards doing the same.

Sure, this was Harlequins showing themselves in all their all-out-attacking, total-rugby glory, but there is work to do yet before their director of rugby can start thinking about crossing the A316 to play the club he coached to four domestic titles (not to mention a couple of European Cups) for the Premiership crown in Twickenham's main-stage arena.

Quins have the small matter of a derby against London Irish to negotiate first (and Leicester a re-match against a Bath side intent on avenging a heartbreaker of a last-minute Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat). Still, after their travails of the previous two weeks – taking their own Heineken quarter-final knock-out blow in the Stoop slug-fest against Leinster, and enduring their subsequent still-reeling defeat up at Sale – Harlequins are in the play-off semi-finals for the first time, with a home tie to come on Saturday week, having secured second place in the Guinness Premiership table in the grandest of style.

It was so grand that the deadpan Richards could not stop himself breaking into a smile or two in the press room afterwards. "In the first half, I thought we were outstanding," he said. "The inter-passing, the continuity, what we call our Quins style, playing with pace and ambition... I thought we showed everything we're about."

It was all too much for a Newcastle side shorn of Carl Hayman and Jamie Noon, not to mention Jonny Wilkinson. Harlequins went all-out for the bonus point, sparked by the impatient, razor-sharp Danny Care – who could have done little more to press his case for the Lions scrum-half spot made vacant by the misfortune of Tomas O'Leary – and driven forward at a fair rate of knots by their dynamic back-row trio, Will Skinner, Nick Easter and Chris Robshaw.

They had their first five-point score on the board after seven minutes (Easter barrelling over after a lightning-quick tap-and-go by Care); their second after 16 minutes (courtesy of Easter again); their third after 20 minutes (this time hooker Tani Fuga completing the honours from close range); and the bonus point in the bag with 29 minutes on the clock (Care feeding full-back Mike Brown on the crash ball). There was also the cherry of a fifth try, the Lions-selected Ugo Monye turning on the afterburners up the left wing.

On this evidence, London Irish will have a mighty job to deny Deano and his boys a big day out across the other side of the Chertsey Road.

Scorers: Harlequins: Tries Easter 2, Fuga, Brown, Monye; Conversions Luveniyali 3. Newcastle: Tries Parling, Charlton; Conversion May.

Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, G Tiesi, J Turner-Hall, U Monye (S Stegman, h-t, D Barry, 48, T Guest, 58); W Luveniyali, D Care; C Jones, T Fuga (C Brooker, 68), M Ross (M Lambert, 59), J Percival, G Robson (J Evans, 59), C Robshaw, W Skinner (capt), N Easter.

Newcastle: A Tait; D Williams, T May, T Tu'ipulotu, J Rudd (S Jones, 57); R Miller, M Young; M Ward (J Williams, 61), M Thompson (A Long, 45), D Wilson, T Swinson, M Sorenson, R Winter (R Beattie, 65), P Dowson (capt, P Browne, 45), A Balding (G Parling, 21).

Referee: D Richards (Berkshire).

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