Young adds the finishing touch to Newcastle's overdue resurgence
Newcastle 33 Harlequins 18
Saturday 05 March 2011
To say that Newcastle have finally awoken to their seriousness of their plight is to understate the matter. A team that could not win for three months has now tasted victory twice within the space of six days.
First relegation rivals Leeds Carnegie were clinically dispatched at Headingley and now this: a performance dripping with belief, desire and a willingness to run the ball at every opportunity.
Newcastle seem to have rediscovered their appetite for the game, with second-half tries from Alex Gray, Luke Fielden and Micky Young just reward for their bold approach.
Two weeks ago Alan Tait's men were humiliated on home soil by the Exeter and looked too bad to stay up. Now they look too good to go down. "People say you've got to hit rock-bottom before you start looking up," Tait, the head coach, said. "That Exeter defeat definitely was rock-bottom for me, but the boys knew how I felt and they dug deep against Leeds and again tonight."
Conor O'Shea, the Harlequins director of rugby, was forced to concede a top-four finish is now an increasingly distant prospect. "We knew how pivotal that game was to our top-four hopes but our set-piece didn't function and we were beaten by the better side," he said.
Quins had led in the third minute when an attack that covered countless phases culminated in Rory Clegg and Mike Brown combining to send Williams over in the right corner. Clegg, the erstwhile Newcastle No 10, added the extras.
The Falcons gradually warmed to their task. Jimmy Gopperth's penalty got the hosts off the mark before kicking two more penalties to sandwich one from Clegg as both sides relished the battle up front. A second penalty from Clegg restored Harlequins' lead after the resumption, but Newcastle fashioned a splendid response which harvested two tries in quick succession from Gray and Fielden.
Harlequins replied through through Brown but Young beavered his way over and Gopperth booted his seventh goal to give Newcastle a handsome victory.
Now these sides must do it all again in the LV= Cup semi-final at the Stoop next Friday.
Newcastle: Tries Gray, Fielden, Young; Conversions Gopperth 3; Penalties Gopperth 4. Harlequins: Tries Williams, Brown; Conversion Clegg; Penalties Clegg 2.
Newcastle: J Manning (T Tu'ipulotu, 33); L Fielden (T Catterick, 68), L Eves, J Fitzpatrick, A Tait; J Gopperth, M Young; J Golding (G Shiells, 66), M Thompson, E Murray (K Brookes, 68); J Hudson (capt), A Van der Heijden; T Swinson, B Wilson (G Shiells, 20, B Wilson 29, A Gray 50), A Hogg.
Harlequins M Brown; T Williams, U Monye (R Chisholm, 69), J Turner-Hall (T Casson, 63), O Lindsay-Hague; R Clegg, D Moore; C Jones (C Brooker, 50), J Gray (J Marler, 50), J Johnston (M Lambert, 50); O Kohn (T Vallejos, 57), P Browne; M Fa'asavalu (M Lambert, 16), W Skinner, C Robshaw (capt).
Referee A Small (RFU)
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