Harlequins produced a memorable second-half fightback as tries from Ollie Lindsay-Hague and a double from James Chisholm saw them down a below-par Newport Gwent Dragons at the Twickenham Stoop.
The Welsh side had led 21-8 at half-time but Conor O’Shea’s men took full advantage of a yellow card to Newport’s Elliot Dee just minutes after the break to claim a much-needed LV= Cup win thanks largely to 16 points from the boot of Tim Swiel.
Harlequins started like an express train and went ahead early. After dominating territory and possession in the opening minutes, flyer Lindsay-Hague went over in the left hand corner after a quick tap from a scrum. Swiel was off-target with his conversion.
And it could have been worse for Newport just minutes earlier as Quins saw a drive held up over the line after the Dragons had needlessly given away penalties at the lineout.
The Dragons fought back and weren’t behind for long though – Quins’ No.9 Karl Dickson saw his box kick charged down, allowing Jonathan Evans to score – Rhys Jones was unable to add the extras off the tee.
Newport slowly battled their way back into the contest and deservedly won a penalty at scrum time after 18 minutes – but again Jones missed his kick at goal and the score remained at 5-5.
But the Dragons, who beat Stade Francais in Paris three weeks ago, scored their second try of the game soon after as they punished below-par Quins’ defensive work.
Andrew Coombs picked an intelligent line in open play and James Thomas was on his shoulder when it mattered most to go over for a score; Dorian Jones, takes over the kicking duties, landed his kick to make it 12-5 after 21 minutes.
Swiel, 21, who has been brought in on loan from Natal Sharks by Conor O'Shea as back-up for Nick Evans at fly-half, hauled Quins back into the game with a penalty to make the score 12-8.
O’Shea will have been fuming at the break as Harlequins’ indiscipline at scrum-time and at the breakdown saw Newport add three further penalties, Dorian Jones kicking all three shots at goal, including two long-range efforts to make the score 21-8.
Swiel missed a kick of his own on the stroke of half-time – his miss epitomising the below-par showing from Harlequins during the opening 40 minutes.
Quins looked a completely different side after the break and reduced the arrears within minutes as Swiel landed a penalty after the Dragons were penalised for going offside.
Another Harlequins penalty saw the home side go for the corner and after Newport hauled down the resulting drive Dee found himself needlessly yellow carded.
And Harlequins took full advantage of their numerical advantage as Chisholm was bundled over after a powerful driving maul, with Swiel adding the conversion on 50 minutes to bring O’Shea’s men back to within three points of Newport at 18-21.
Three minutes later Harlequins drew level as Newport were penalised at scrum-time and Swiel landed a penalty to turn the game on its head inside 13 second-half minutes.
On 57 minutes Harlequins got their noses back in front when Swiel landed another penalty as Newport’s Cory Hill was penalised for not rolling away.
With just ten minutes of the game remaining Chisholm grabbed his second try of the evening, dotting down after an impressive driving maul from Harlequins – Swiel again adding the extras to make the score 31-21.
Quins pushed for the bonus-point score in the final few minutes but the home side couldn’t add try number four.
For your definitive guide to the LV= Cup click here
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton on Sunday 22 March. Visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk for tickets