Having waited 18 years for a win at the Twickenham Stoop, Newcastle Falcons were victorious there for the second time in eight months on Sunday in an entertaining Premiership Rugby Cup encounter.
The home side missed a golden chance to steal the game at the death when Demetri Catrakilis hit the crossbar with a 40-metre penalty, Newcastle remaining unbeaten in the competition after the opening two rounds.
Newcastle began the game with a sensible territorial mind-set and built a 13-6 half-time lead, striving to play in Harlequins’ half as Tom Arscott and Brett Connon both put boot to ball early on in the middle third.
A jackal from Jack Payne on his own 22 dug the Falcons out of trouble following a Quins foray downfield, but it was the home team who managed the first points of the afternoon when a Demetri Catrakilis penalty from 15 metres out punished an offside round the fringes of a ruck.
Connon levelled matters on 13 minutes with a well-struck penalty from the right, Harlequins coming within a whisker of resuming their lead when Lewis Boyce was denied a try by the television match official for a knock-on in the build-up.
Catrakilis’ second penalty nudged the home team back in front on 21 minutes as the South African slotted one from the left, a superb spot-tackle from Chris Harris helping stop the Londoners adding further to their tally as they launched an attack down the left.
Connon levelled proceedings with a superbly-struck penalty on the half-hour, and within two minutes his team led for the first time when Pedro Bettencourt enjoyed a walk-in down the right in a move started by Connor Collett’s rampaging line-break.
That handed the Falcons a 13-6 half-time lead as Harlequins tried and failed to find touch from a penalty in the final minute of the opening period, Catrakilis finding his range again with the 49th-minute penalty which reduced the visitors’ advantage to four.
That margin lasted for only a matter of seconds as a ruthless Newcastle side struck, replacement Ben Stevenson pouncing on a loose pass around halfway to hare between the posts, Connon converting.
Harlequins responded just before the hour mark when prop Boyce ploughed over for a try from a close-range pick and go, Catrakilis’ wayward conversion attempt leaving the Falcons six up, but that buffer was wiped out two minutes later when Alex Dombrandt crashed over, the conversion putting his team ahead by the finest of margins.
Former Quin Tim Swiel fired fractionally wide with a 40-metre penalty as Newcastle turned to their bench, but he found the target from closer in on 71 minutes as Newcastle earned a shot at goal from a forward foray.
Catrakilis had one last chance to steal the win for his side via a long-range penalty, but the crossbar came to Newcastle’s rescue as they held out for the win.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Pedro Bettencourt (Ben Stevenson, 40), 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Brett Connon (Tim Swiel, 61), 9 Sam Stuart (Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 65); 1 Sam Lockwood (Trevor Davison, 57), 2 Santiago Socino (Jamie Blamire, 65), 3 Jack Payne (Jon Welsh, 57), 4 Andrew Davidson, 5 Glen Young, 6 Ryan Burrows (captain), 7 Connor Collett (John Hardie, 50), 8 Callum Chick.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Pedro Bettencourt, Ben Stevenson. Conversions: Brett Connon 2. Penalties: Brett Connon 2, Tim Swiel.
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Cadan Murley, 13 Francis Saili, 12 James Lang (Paul Lasike, 39), 11 Tim Visser (Aaron Morris, 58), 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Niall Saunders; 1 Lewis Boyce, 2 Dave Ward (Elia Elia, 57), 3 Phil Swainston (Josh McNulty, 63), 4 Dino Lamb, 5 George Merrick (Ben Glynn, 77), 6 Jack Clifford (captain), 7 Archie White (Henry Cheeseman, 65), 8 Alex Dombrandt.
Harlequins scorers - Tries: Lewis Boyce, Alex Dombrandt. Conversions: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Demetri Catrakilis 3.
Referee: Michael Hudson. Attendance: 8,027.