Yesterday another raucous full house at the Stoop witnessed one of its ‘special days’ as the Harlequins, against all pundits’ predictions including my own, spanked the in-form Leicester Tigers by a margin of 32-12 for a four-try bonus point win to lift them from 8th to 7th in the Premiership [more importantly, now only 2 points behind Wasps in the fourth play-off spot].
Confession-time: your correspondent wasn’t even there, though he could have been.
I’d had a fairly manic morning up to lunch, during which I’d completed several more knotty personal and domestic tasks that I had imagined was possible. On a whim – given the windy, near-rain, weather and the seductive delights of my favourite sofa, kitchen and quadrophonic sound system – I then opted to watch the live television coverage of the game on BT Sport rather than take advantage of my season ticket in the LV= Stand.
You can put my decision down to old age if you must. I felt I ought to go (not least because otherwise I’d be wasting the expense of my season ticket). However I was on my own, feeling lazy and took the view that I’d probably gain a better detailed appreciation of what was happening in the game from the goggle box than I would from actually being in the ground. Plus I would avoid all the hassles of getting there and back, the capacity crowd milling about and having to queue to take a leak at half-time.
In short, having a bit of a Billy-No-Mates indulgent weekend of it, I preferred the drawbridge up and the central heating on.
Tigers had the best of the first 20 minutes, after which they led 9-3. They looked big, efficient and seemingly in total control. Quins had been huffing and puffing, trying to attack from everywhere including inside their own 22, and (bluntly) had been getting no change at all out of the Tigers’ defence.
The signs were ominous.
Then, out of the blue, Quins had a breakthrough. Still banging their heads against a brick wall, suddenly a flash of inspiration from Nick Easter – a delicate underhand off-load out of a tackle – put Danny Care through a gap. Forty yards out, he still had plenty to do but he pinned his ears back, evaded Nick Youngs’ tackle, stumbled and then half-recovered before taking a despairing final tackler with him as he stretched for the line and the opening try.
From that point, Quins seized the momentum, pressed on and then eventually out of sight. For all their effort, Tigers could just not wrestle their way back into the game and further tries from Jack Clifford, Marland Yarde and finally Tim Swiel (in overtime) took us to the bonus point.
There was bold talk afterwards of corners turned and Quins now setting out their stall for a push to a Top Four place. I don’t buy any of that. The way Quins have been playing it could be just another case of ‘one step forward’, with a ‘one step back’ to come next time.
Now back to the European Rugby Champions Cup group stage and our vital clash with Wasps on Saturday …