Harlequins found some relief as they ended their losing run with a 17-17 draw against Newcastle at Kingston Park. For Newcastle it was a third draw in four matches and both teams remain winless this season.
Newcastle quickly established a 14-3 lead with tries from Tane Tu’ipulotu and Tim Swinson – both benefactors of fine work from the impressive Micky Young. The Newcastle number nine, returning from injury, achieved the rare distinction of upstaging England scrum-half Danny Care in the first half.
But Harlequins and Care responded in the second half with Ugo Monye’s try giving them hope before the boot of New Zealander Nick Evans salvaged a draw for Harlequins.
A simple penalty from Evans gave Harlequins an early lead, but in the ninth minute Newcastle took control. Stand-in captain Jimmy Gopperth, on his return from injury, pounced on a loose ball in midfield, with Harlequins dozing in defence, and he released Charlie Amesbury.
When the jinking winger was finally halted, Newcastle got the quick ball they needed and Young created just enough space for Tu’ipulotu to crash over. Gopperth added the conversion.
Despite the late withdrawal of captain and propping anchor Carl Hayman with a hamstring injury, Newcastle’s pack more than held their own up front. And the Falcons extended their points advantage mid-way through the first half.
Again the diminutive Young squirmed his way to within striking distance, before letting one of the big boys grab the glory. This time it was second row Swinson who barged over the line and Gopperth converted.
Where Newcastle were efficient, Harlequins were wasteful. Young’s opposite number, Care, spilled the ball forward five metres from the line in one of a number of fruitless forays into their opponent’s 22.
Evans reduced the deficit with an early second-half penalty and a try from Monye brought Quins to within three points. The England international burst into the line from full-back and his arcing run took him into the corner unopposed.
It was a moment that proved his attacking potential from deep but no doubt Martin Johnson will demand greater all-round awareness than he displayed tonight, if he is to be given the number 15 shirt for the autumn internationals.
A long-range penalty from Gopperth protected Newcastle’s advantage but Evans hit back again with the boot. The late sin-binning of Rob Vickers for constant infringing, gave Quins hope and Evans levelled the scoreboard. But a late drop goal sailed wide from Evans as a first win eluded them.