Quins cruise past Falcons to maintain perfect start
Harlequins continued their best start with to a season with a 13th consecutive win in all competitions, brushing Newcastle aside in Aviva Premiership Rugby Round 9.
It took the London club nine points clear of second-placed Saracens, with wing Seb Stegmann scoring two of their five tries. Defeat kept Newcastle anchored to the foot of the table, nine points adrift of Worcester.
Quins were forced to make a late change with captain Chris Robshaw missing his first game of the season because of an ankle injury, leaving the openside jersey to Luke Wallace.
Having weathered an early storm of home pressure, Newcastle finally got some ball they could use after nine minutes and launched two searching attacks only for James Fitzpatrick to knock-on in contact with Quins on the back foot.
The hosts regrouped as a result and pressure told finally when referee Luke Pearce spotted an offside and Nick Evans opened the scoring with a penalty after 18 minutes.
When Newcastle did get possession they tended to squander it with careless hands in the tackle. Quins did some squandering of their own before scoring again in the 26th minute. Evans was involved twice, once when his kick was won by Jeremy Manning and again when the fly-half made a break only to throw his pass to Sam Smith forward.
But the opposition defence cracked badly when Stegmann attacked up the right wing. He lacked support but managed to break poor tackles by Alex Tait, Jamie Helleur and Chris Pilgrim to score by the flag. Evans added the conversion.
Newcastle hit back after 34 minutes following a scorching break by Jimmy Gopperth. Manning took the pass and cut a fine line to bisect Stegmann and Mike Brown before forcing the ball down on the line. Quins believed they had prevented the full-back from scoring but the referee was well-placed and seconds later Gopperth hooked his conversion.
Danny Care restored the 10-point margin two minutes from half-time. Smith broke up the left and passed inside to Jordan Turner-Hall who, despite being well-tackled by Fitzpatrick, armed Care to score in the corner. This time Evans' conversion attempt went wide.
Gopperth, usually so deadly in front of goal, fluffed a chance to reduce the arrears two minutes into the second half when Quins offended at a breakdown.
Mike Brown made a wonderful break minutes later, racing past four defenders before being hauled down a foot from the line. Newcastle managed to hold the fort under fierce pressure, although it cost them 10 minutes in the sin-bin for flanker Tim Swinson.
This led to a siege comprising penalties and scrums which the visitors withstood for 10 minutes - then turned the ball over on their line in heroic fashion. The clearance kick, however, was run straight back and this time Pilgrim was sin-binned for tackling Matt Hopper without using his arms correctly. It proved the breaking point.
Quins kicked their penalty to touch, won the lineout and 13-man Newcastle could not prevent Wallace from crossing their line, Evans adding the extra points.
Gopperth kicked his first goal in the 58th minute after Joe Marler tackled him late but the visitors were back under pressure straight from the restart. Brown was again the main threat, starting and finishing the move. His darting break created a five-man move that ended with the full-back twisting over on the left after 65 minutes to claim the fourth-try bonus point.
Newcastle were energetic right to the finish, but only in search of pride and even that took yet another dent when Quins broke out from close to their line before surging up the right where the ball was kicked on. It did not seem possible that Newcastle would be beaten to the ball, but Stegmann turned on the gas and grabbed his second try. James Johnston wrapped things up with the sixth try seconds from time.