Swiel boots Quins clear
Five penalties from Tim Swiel saved Harlequins from a surprise home defeat at the Stoop as they edged strugglers Newcastle Falcons 15-7.
For three-quarters of the match, Newcastle were easily the better side but they failed to take their chances and only had a solitary try from Alex Tuilagi, which was converted by Juan Pablo Socino.
Tuilagi and fellow wing, Sinoti Sinoti, had caused the home defence huge problems but ill-discipline and careless errors cost Falcons the match.
Harlequins fielded a much weakened line-up with Chris Robshaw, Nick Evans and Luke Wallace all absent through injury. Joe Marler and Nick Easter were also rested, while Danny Care started on the bench. Fly-half Swiel, and number eight James Chisholm both made their first Premiership starts.
Newcastle made eight changes from last week's defeat at the hands of Stade Francais. Skipper Will Welch returned as did fellow forwards Scott Wilson and Ally Hogg. Tuilagi, Mike Blair and Sinoti were recalled to take up places in the back division.
Newcastle began with a thrilling movement, which almost resulted in the game's first try.
Inside his own half, Sinoti fielded a clearance kick, before exploding past three defenders to set up a position in the opposition 22. The ball was recycled for Tuilagi to bounce off Marland Yarde's attempted tackle before being forced into touch, inches short of the try line.
However Quins relieved the early pressure to take a ninth minute lead when Swiel kicked a penalty.
Incisive breaks from Karl Dickson for Quins and Sinoti then followed but though neither resulted in tries, although they certainly contributed to a highly entertaining first 20 minutes.
Newcastle continued to be the better side but Socino spurned their first chance for points when his penalty attempt went badly astray .
The Falcons then suffered two further blows in quick succession. First, lively full back Simon Hammersley left the field with an injury to be replaced by Noah Cato before lock Dom Barrow limped off with Kane Thompson coming on.
The second quarter was nowhere as good as the first as it was frequently disrupted by treatment for injuries. However there was still some creative running with bursts from George Lowe and Blair testing the opposition defences.
Quins had a chance to extend their lead by kicking an easy penalty but they opted for an attacking line-out. This proved to be the wrong call as hooker Joe Gray's throw went straight to a Newcastle jumper.
The visitors made them pay for that error by scoring the opening try in first-half stoppage time.
From a line-out in the home 22, the Falcons pack drove forward and Tuilagi was on hand to force his way over, with Socino converting for a deserved 7-3 lead at the interval.
Quins began the second half poorly so they made two replacements after nine minutes of the half with David Ward and Will Collier being introduced into the front row. Ugo Monye soon followed onto the field as he replaced Asaeli Tikoirotuma.
Against the run of play, Quins reduced the arrears to one point. Lowe and Matt Hopper made strong runs to get the hosts into the Newcastle half and earn a penalty. Swiel made no mistake with the kick.
Tom Catterick's restart went straight into touch, which handed Quins the initiative, and when Newcastle were again penalised Swiel put them 9-7 ahead on the hour-mark.
Care became the fourth Quins' replacement just in time to see Swiel kick his fourth penalty after George McGuigan was penalised for not releasing.
The home side then had their best period of the match and another Newcastle infringement saw Swiel again on target to send the Falcons home without even a bonus point.