Newcastle Falcons managed three tries in a committed display but left the Twickenham Stoop empty-handed after a thrilling Aviva Premiership encounter on Saturday.
A breathless start on a hard pitch saw both sides keeping a dry ball in hand for prolonged periods, Newcastle making the first inroads when a multi-phase attack delivered a penalty in front of the posts for Mike Delany.
The Kiwi duly slotted the simple kick from 10 metres out, but his side were quickly underneath their own posts when an attempt to play inside their own half saw former Falcon Tim Visser snaffling an interception. The big Dutchman raced clear from the 22, Ben Botica’s conversion putting the hosts into a four-point lead.
Delany chipped three off that margin with a long-range penalty on eight minutes, but the Falcons paid the penalty when Quins kicked for the right corner and drove the maul over the try-line. England’s Jack Clifford was the scorer, Botica converting from out wide.
Quick feet from recalled winger Sinoti Sinoti and incisive support running from Alex Tait had the visitors in behind Quins’ defensive line as the half reached the midway point, but it was the home side who ended the half the stronger.
Ally Hogg’s interception saved a try as Marland Yarde looked to offload, and Chris Harris prevented another with a bone-shuddering hit on Jamie Roberts. But when Harlequins were awarded a penalty in the left corner and opted for a line-out, even a Calum Green steal could not prevent a third try as hooker Joe Gray dived on the loose ball in goal.
Botica’s touchline conversion gave the home side a 21-6 half-time lead, Sean Robinson entering the fray for the second period as the visitors searched for further forward gains.
Newcastle began the half in adventurous fashion, Sinoti and George McGuigan both exploiting the wide channels, but it was Quins who made the first dent on the scoreboard when Joe Marchant crossed for the bonus-point try.
Botica converted, but the Falcons were refusing to roll over as Robinson hit the wide channel and put Marcus Watson away for a try in the right corner.
The momentum continued when a run from Sinoti and some powerful pick-and-go work ended with a try for Nili Latu between the posts, Delany’s conversion narrowing the deficit to 10 points going into the closing quarter.
That margin closed to just three when George Merrick’s sin-binning and a penalty kicked to the corner set the stage for Latu’s second converted try, the Tongan driven over from a maul in the right corner.
A pair of Botica penalties took Newcastle back out of bonus point range going into the final 10 minutes, Visser’s second try removing the doubt as he collected his own hack ahead.
Yarde took Quins' tally to 46 with the very last play, a cruel blow to a Newcastle side who had shown plenty in an energetic performance and must now take that spirit into the visit of London Irish to Kingston Park on Sunday April 17.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: A Tait, M Watson, C Harris, A Powell (B Agulla, 48), S Sinoti (S Hammersley, 60), M Delany, M Young (S Takulua, 48); R Vickers (A Rogers, 60), G McGuigan (S Lawson, 57), T Vea (K Hatakeyama, 48), M Wilson (S Robinson, 40), C Green, N Latu, W Welch (captain), A Hogg.
Sin-bin: S Robinson (66), M Delany (78).
Falcons scorers - Tries: M Watson, N Latu 2. Conversions: M Delany 2. Penalties: M Delany 2.
HARLEQUINS: M Brown, M Yarde, J Marchant (R Chisholm, 73), J Roberts, T Visser, B Botica, D Care (captain, K Dickson, 73); J Marler (M Lambert, 57), J Gray (D Ward, 70), W Collier (K Sinckler, 57), G Merrick, J Horwill (S Twomey, 50), C Robshaw, J Clifford, N Easter (M Luamanu, 50).
Sin-bin: G Merrick (60).
Harlequins scorers - Tries: T Visser 2, J Clifford, J Gray, J Marchant, M Yarde. Conversions: B Botica 5. Penalties: B Botica 2.
Referee: Matt Carley. Attendance: 14,267