Saturday 6th January 2018: Aviva Premiership, Round 13: Sale Sharks v Harlequins at the AJ Bell Stadium (attendance 7,242): Result – Sale Sharks 30 Harlequins 29: new league positions – Sale Sharks 6th on 33 points, Harlequins 9th on 32 points.
This needn’t take long. I didn’t attend this match; didn’t watch this match on the television (it wasn’t being broadcast live); didn’t even attempt to listen to it via the BBC local radio commentary (if there was one); and in fact only caught up with its progress because I had BT sport’s live coverage of the match between Worcester Warriors and Bath playing at low volume on my television in the background as I busied myself doing other things in my flat all afternoon.
The thing is that I tend to leave my correspondence filing – and general tidying up – for months at a time and then (when a clear blue sky opportunity arises, as they all too rarely do) I set aside half a day for a ‘blitz’. In this I attempt to filter out the crap, plus the ‘issues’ that seemed to require urgent action at one time but which are now so old they have in fact ‘gone away’ – and bin both of those in a black sack to be taken to the rubbish bins.
Then I attempt to ‘file’ everything that appears to be important enough to keep in various ring-binders or lesser files (depending upon how voluminous the paperwork is) – thereby clearing my desk and front room of mountains of detritus – and then sit back, enjoy my handiwork, and then forget about the process for another few months at least.
The only variation to the norm yesterday that – as I began the ‘filing’ part of the Herculean task – I registered that I needed some more files and had to waddle off to the Rymans in my local town about a quarter of a mile away in order to buy some more. Plus – on a whim – another two packets’ worth of my favourite Uni-ball gell ink pens (one can never have too many of those in one’s personal stock).
By all accounts it was an exciting match to watch if you were actually at it and the irony is/was that – when I was updated as the Worcester/Bath game ended and the BT presenters brought up to date with ‘the latest at other grounds’, it appeared that Quins had edged in front with but minutes to go … and so I switched off the television altogether.
It was therefore a bit of a surprise to learn this morning, upon waking and going online to the newspaper websites, that in fact Sale has prevailed by a single point after being awarded a last-minute penalty!
I’ve written previously about the poor disciplinary records of Quins’ top props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler.
Even allowing the widespread traditional opinion that you need have to have a screw loose to even aspire to become a rugby union prop forward, Marler – already a veteran but still only approaching his best years in his chosen position at the age of 27 – has long had a reputation for being a bit weird.
You might recall the Mohican haircuts, the wacky humour on and off the field of play and the list of ‘previous’ for violence and aggression as long as your arm which four or five seasons ago made him a bit of a loose cannon, so often was he yellow or red-carded, leaving Quins one man down at crucial times in vital games.
Don’t’ get me wrong, Marler is a genuine Test-quality forward and most Quins fans regard him as okay, a bit of a rogue but also a club talisman who gives his all for the cause … whenever, that is, he doesn’t ‘lose it’ and go off on one.
Still learning his trade as a front-row, he can also get around the park a bit and makes great tackles and storming runs … which is why he’s already played for both England and the British Lions. However, again, he’s got to learn to control the rage inside him and at the moment he has too many ‘red mist’ lapses and needs to get a grip on these – otherwise Eddie Jones may lose interest in him (too much of a liability for the RWC in 2019?).
He’s doing his best. In a recent interview he said he follows Joe Marler round like a puppy, trying to copy everything he does to the point of stalking him. On top of that Marler is supposed to be his mentor.
The concept was perhaps a good idea but, like all things human, it comes with a certain fallibility.
Yesterday Marler got sent off 60 minutes into the match for what some might see as a ridiculous and unnecessary ‘clearing out’ offence at a ruck, leaving the Quins team a man down and therefore shipping water as tired legs and weakening concentration played their part on both sides towards the end of the game.
Another narrow loss has taken Quins back down to 9th place in the league, just ahead of the crisis-hit Northampton Saints who won a close game against Gloucester this weekend to register their first Premiership victory in three months – in fact since they last played Quins at Franklin’s Gardens (a match I attended in person).