Harlequins returned to winning ways in the Aviva Premiership as they edged a nail-biter against strugglers Newcastle Falcons thanks largely to the boot of fly-half Tim Swiel
The Falcons, who had won just once in their last 12 away games and not won at the Stoop since 2000, led with an hour gone on the clock until ill-discipline saw Swiel steal the points with his second-half kicking exploits.
Newcastle boss Dean Richards – returning to his former club Quins – saw his men led 7-3 at the break thanks to a late try from Alesana Tuilagi but four penalties from Swiel after the break turned the game in Harlequins’ favour.
Prior to kick-off, Quins had only won once in their last four league games, with only four wins coming in total from the opening nine rounds of the Premiership and that lack of confidence showed for Conor O’Shea’s men.
On his maiden Aviva Premiership start; Quins No.10, Swiel, notched the first points of the afternoon, striking a simple 22-metre penalty eight minutes in.
This was the only score in a scrappy opening quarter – both sides looked lively on the attack but committed basic handling errors that stemmed the flow.
The majority of territory and possession belonged to the Falcons who used powerful Polynesian runners Sinoti Sinoti and Tuilagi to break the gain-line.
Juan Pablo Socino missed a chance to level the scores with his first shot at goal from the tee, his effort slicing wide to the right.
Quins then forced the best chance of the half; Matt Hopper kicked through from midfield into Newcastle’s 22 but could not re-gather and tackled the scrambling Simon Hammersley high, therefore conceding a penalty.
This released the pressure on the Falcons as they survived the first real threat to their line.
But Newcastle could not seem to get themselves firing as, when manoeuvring into good attacking positions, they regularly infringed in their earnest to score where calm heads were required.
Quins were equally profligate and wasted a lineout five metres from the Falcons line, as they opted to kick for touch rather than take a safe three points.
However, right on half-time Newcastle took the lead, Tuilagi powering over from close range – Quins thought he had dropped the ball in the act of scoring but the TMO confirmed the score and Socino added the conversion.
The opening ten minutes of the second half followed a similar theme to the first 40, neither side were able to sustain periods of possession and lacked the cutting edge to capitalise when needed.
Both sides seemed to lack confidence – maybe unsurprising as Quins have lost their last two in the league and Newcastle their last three.
Swiel brought the London side within a point, slotting a penalty from 30 metres after Newcastle were penalised for not releasing at the ruck.
Newcastle now could not deal with a more sprightly Quins’ side, who upped the tempo with the introduction of Danny Care and Ugo Monye, the latter’s first outing since the London Double Header.
And the 21-year-old fly-half, on loan from Natal Sharks, then put his side eight points in the lead with his third, fourth and fifth penalties all from similar positions around 30 metres out.
The surge by Quins in the last 20 minutes was enough to seal the win; and they go into the Big Game against Northampton at Twickenham next weekend now with wind in their sails.