Mehrtens has Quins purring

Harlequins 52 Newbury 13
Click to follow
The Independent Online

A whiff of new paint in the toilets and building dust gathering around the shoes were signs of last-minute activity, but the £8.5m Lexus Stand was fit for the ribbon to be cut by former captains including Jason Leonard, Keith Wood, David Cooke, Peter Winterbottom and Bob Hiller. A life-size bronze statue of Nick Duncombe, the Quins and England scrum-half who died aged 21 in February 2003, was unveiled by his former team-mate, Dan Luger. "The most important part of the day,'' Quins' chief executive, Mark Evans, called it.

Quins have not been at this level since leagues began in 1987; before that they had a fixture list drawn up with the flash of a school tie and how well an opponent could mix a gin and tonic. Now Newbury - runners-up in National League Two last year - are among many who will adopt the same attitude: no respect.

Chris Cracknell, a flanker released by Quins this summer, scored a try in added time before the interval and the New Zealander fly-half Blair Feeney kicked a conversion and two penalties for a 13-10 lead. But those miserable curmudgeons waiting for Quins to fall flat on their faces - and they must number no more than a few million - will have to wait a little longer.

They came down with a whopping parachute payment and a set of forwards big enough to bully this company. If there is any threat to Quins' immediate return to the Premiership it lies most obviously before Christmas in trips to Plymouth and Rotherham.

Quins' solitary first-half try, driven off the back of a line-out by the England Under-19 prop Alex Rogers, was as easily taken as the one off the back of a scrum by the No 8 Nick Easter a comforting five minutes into the second half. Soon after a break by Mel Deane - whose late try rescued Quins the previous week at Otley - was finished off by Ian Vass and there was a palpable sense that Newbury had had enough.

Andrew Mehrtens stroked over all six of his goal-kicks, as befits the All Blacks' record points scorer, and some of his grubbers were delights in themselves. But whether Will Greenwood can continue to get away with behaving as if "tackle" is only something he would take on a fishing holiday is open to debate.

Quins ran in further tries by Easter, Charlie Amesbury, Simon Keogh and Adrian Jarvis. The attendance of just over 8,000 meant the ground was a healthy two-thirds full. Most of them reacted at the end as if they could get used to this.

Harlequins: G Duffy; S Keogh, W Greenwood (J Turner-Hall, 71), M Dean, U Monye (C Amesbury, 47); A Mehrtens (A Jarvis, 74), I Vass; A Rogers (R Nebbett, 54), T Fuga, R Nebbett, J Evans (P Bouza, 79), S Miall, A Vos (capt), N Easter (T Guest, 71), L Sherriff.

Newbury: M Roberts (capt); K Bingham (L Gibson, 74), M Ireland (P Davies, 74), D Bell, M Nutt (R Aiono, 62); B Feeney, D Smaje (J Green, 64); R Faulkner, G Cooper (R Scothern, 54), N Collins (S Carter, 71), A Smith (M Styles, 54), T Radbourne, I Damudamu, D Lubans, C Cracknell.

Referee: G Ashton-Jones (Royal Navy).