Turner-Hall on England course before collision
Harlequins 39 Newcastle 8
Midway through the final quarter of yesterday's one-sided meeting between the high-flying and bottom-feeding clubs in the Premiership, the Harlequins centre Jordan Turner-Hall ran smack into one of his colleagues, who, rather unfortunately, happened to be Maurie Fa'asavalu. It was the only wrong decision he made all afternoon. "It's best not to run into Mo, because there's only one winner and it won't be you," said Conor O'Shea, the Londoners' director of rugby – but it was a costly one. Turner-Hall left the field in what his boss called "an extremely battered state" and may not be fit for this weekend's derby trip to Wasps.
Right now, the last thing Turner-Hall needs is to miss matches. Why? Because on this showing, it may not be long before England show a serious interest in his services. Quite whether any young player in his right mind would want to associate himself with the national side just at the moment is another matter entirely, but there is undeniably something about the 23-year-old midfielder's muscular approach to his work that sets him apart from most rival contenders for the No 12 shirt, who are in such short supply anyway that they would struggle to fill a phone booth.
"I think Jordan is a better player now than he was two or three years ago," O'Shea remarked, referring to the point when Turner-Hall was last on the red-rose radar. "He's working on new skills, but the important point about him is he's comfortable in his own skin – with the things he already does well. He's intensely physical, he loves to carry the ball, he's good in the off-load. As I've already said this season, he's the glue that holds us together. He's going from strength to strength."
If only Turner-Hall could play against Newcastle's centres every week, he would look like a world-beater. Neither James Fitzpatrick nor Jamie Helleur covered themselves in glory yesterday – afterwards, the Newcastle coach Alan Tait, no mean midfielder himself, was spitting tacks over the rash of overcooked passes that cost his struggling side priceless field position – but even had they been on song, they would have struggled to contain the burly Harlequin.
Quins recorded their ninth straight league victory, the best start made by anyone in the 15-season history of the Premiership. The first 20 minutes or so were a little frustrating as Quins failed to capitalise on repeated breaks by the left wing Sam Smith, but once their other wide man, Seb Steggman, ran through a couple of powder-puff tackles to touch down in the right corner, the Tynesiders were up against it.
By the interval they were 15-5 adrift, courtesy of Smith's long gallop up the left, Turner-Hall's pop-up pass and Danny Care's long-range supporting run; by the 55th minute, they were another seven points and two players worse off. Tim Swinson and Chris Pilgrim were sent to the sin-bin, the first for some hanky-panky on the floor and the second for a high tackle on Matt Hopper, and Luke Wallace made the line in the midst of a driving maul after somehow failing to score from four pushover attempts.
There was more pain to come for Newcastle as Mike Brown, Stegmann and the unusually substantial Samoan prop James Johnston sent the scoreboard spinning in the final quarter. "I was pretty pleased with the way we finished," O'Shea said. "Nick Easter had spoken very powerfully before the game about the necessity to turn up and play, even though we were up against the bottom club. If you don't turn up in the Premiership, you lose."
Easter might have also spoken powerfully on the subject of the leaked reports of England's inept World Cup campaign, in which he was involved as a senior player. Sadly, the No 8 was ordered to put a sock in it – as were many other squad members – after discussions between the clubs and the players' union. A wonderful thing, free speech.
Harlequins: Tries: Stegmann 2, Care, Wallace, Brown, Johnston. Conversions: Evans 2. Penalty: Evans.
Newcastle : Try: Fitzpatrick. Penalty: Gopperth.
Harlequins: M Brown; S Stegmann, M Hopper, J Turner-Hall (T Casson 67), S Smith; N Evans (R Clegg 64), D Care; J Marler (N Mayhew 64), C Brooker (J Gray 55), J Johnston, T Vallejos, G Robson (capt), M Fa'asavalu (C Matthews 73), L Wallace, N Easter.
Newcastle: J Manning (G Goosen 67); A Tait (R Sheriffe h-t), J Helleur, J Fitzpatrick, S Hufanga; J Gopperth, C Pilgrim (J Pasqualin 65); A Wells (G Shiells 52), M Mayhew (J Graham 65), J Hall (D Frazier 65), J Hudson (capt), A Van der Heijden, T Swinson (A Fondse 65), A Hogg, T Tu'ifua (W Welch 61).
Referee: L Pearce (Devon).
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