Harlequins 31 Gwent Dragons 21
Harlequins’ director of rugby Conor O’Shea hailed his side’s fighting qualities after they scored 23 unanswered points after the break to see off Newport Gwent Dragons at the Twickenham Stoop.
Jonathan Evans and Jason Thomas scored first-half tries for Newport as they led 21-8 at the break but a double score from James Chisholm and an early try in the game from Ollie Lindsay-Hague saw Quins roar back.
Tim Swiel was equally as impressive with the boot, scoring 16 points for Harlequins as O’Shea’s men dragged themselves back into the game.
“I was pretty beside myself because we were terrible in the first half,” said O’Shea. “But that’s what this competition is about as well.
“I was pretty beside myself because we were terrible in the first half.” – Conor O’Shea
“It’s about young players understanding the mental mindset that you have to carry and they reacted again – they turned it around, they didn’t go into their shells, and they got the win so that’s the positive side of things.
“We’re so much better than that. We wanted an 80 minute performance like we played in the second half.
“The penalty count was horrific. They conceded 24 penalties, we only conceded eight. It’s very difficult to have a game when that’s going on but we’ll take the win. It gives us something to play for after Christmas with this group of players.”
Newport head coach Lyn Jones was understandably frustrated by his side’s penalty count after the break but still singled out a number of positives from the defeat at the Stoop.
He said: “There are two sides to refereeing. I’m not going to make excuses but wherever you go the game is refereed differently.
“The scoreboard was shaped by the whistle, 23 points in the second half was shaped by 12 penalties to one. We looked a far better team to Quins in the first half. To score 21 points was very pleasing in one half but the territory dried up because of one technicality after another.
“Ross Wardle, Andrew Coombs, Cory Hill, and Joe Davies, who were all long term injuries, have returned tonight and on top of that we have a lot of young players making their debut for the region.
“I’m delighted with what I’ve learned from the young players, I’m delighted to have long-term injury players come back successfully. I’m delighted to have found answers to some nagging questions about some experienced players.
“We are one of the fittest teams in the Celtic league and our work rate is outstanding but you must appreciate that 12 penalties to one has an effect when you are running back all the time.
“We are trying to improve our game but we just need individuals to stand up now and have responsibilities for their actions.”
Tries: Lindsay-Hague, Chisholm (2)
Conversions: Swiel (2)
Penalties: Swiel (4)
Tries: Evans, Thomas
Conversions: D Jones
Penalties: D Jones (3)
Referee: Greg MacDonald
Harlequins: R Chisholm; Walker, Hopper, Turner-Hall (Casson, 50), Lindsay-Hague; Swiel, Dickson; Lambert (Marfo 71), Buchanan (Ward, 50), Sinckler (Collier, 50), Matthews (Merrick, 61), Twomey, Trayfoot (Cheeseman, 66), Clifford, J Chisholm.
Not used: Stuart, Grimoldby
Dragons: GR Jones; Hewitt, Pewtner, Wardle (Williams, 55), Brew (Nightingale, 73); D Jones, Evans (L Jones, 69); Price (Gustafson, 68), Dee, Harris (Young, 63), Thomas, Hill, Coombs, Benjamin (Griffiths, 68), Powell (Davies, 63).
Not used: Fairbrother