|Newcastle (12) 20|
|Tries: Radwan, Stephens, Schreuder Pens: Hayden-Wood Cons: Connon|
|Harlequins (14) 26|
|Tries: Lynagh 2, Marchant, Care Cons: Allan 3|
Champions Harlequins came through a tough examination of their title defence from Newcastle Falcons in an opening weekend Premiership thriller.
Just two points separated the sides at the break, as Quins’ Louis Lynagh and Joe Marchant tries were followed by Falcons’ Adam Radwan and Iwan Stephens.
Lynagh got his second to give Quins a buffer but Louis Schreuder finished off an intercept to keep Falcons in it.
Danny Care’s sniping try proved key as Falcons tried in vain to pull it back.
Will Hayden-Wood snatched the hosts a losing bonus point right at the end, ensuring both sides got the extras after the Quins’ four tries got them the maximum.
This was everything that is good about Premiership rugby as both sides eschewed the kicking tee in favour of expansive, exciting rugby and ferocious, committed contact in defence.
Quins built last season’s title success on the back of an unstoppable attack and they maintained that open feel in this one, prompted by the dangerous Care and Tommaso Allan, who was deputising for Lions tourist Marcus Smith.
Italy international Allan slotted in perfectly, mixing up his passing and running game to creative effect, particularly turning on the gas to tee up tries for both Marchant and Lynagh.
It was the energy of the young talent within the squad, such as captain Alex Dombrandt and fellow back-rower Jack Kenningham that steered Quins over the line in the end, as Falcons did not give up.
Falcons’ director of rugby Dean Richards has spoken previously of a “skinny” squad at Kingston Park but so long as the crop stays fit, they look as though they have a chance of competing at the top end of the table.
In Radwan and Stephens they have electrifying pace, notably for the latter’s try on the back of a hot-stepping break from the former, while new scrum-half Schreuder combined well with Brett Connon in the halves.
However, it was perhaps the experience of Carl Fearns that caught the eye most for the home side, carrying with intent and aggression and giving the pack an extra punch.
Only a foot in touch from Stephens denied him another score, while Fearns was also denied by the Television Match Official.
Newcastle: Penny, Radwan, Stevenson, Lucock, Stephens, Connon, Schreuder, Mulipola, McGuigan, Davison, Peterson, Robinson, Van der Walt, Welch, Fearns.
Replacements: Blamire, Cooper, Tampin, Fuser, Collett, Nordli-Kelemeti, Haydon-Wood, Wacokecoke.
Harlequins: Garcia Botta, Walker, Kerrod, Symons, Lamb, Lawday, Kenningham, Dombrandt, Care, Allan, Murley, Esterhuizen, Marchant, Lynagh, Green.
Replacements: Riley, Marler, Trenier, Tizard, White, Steele, Jones, Northmore.