The weather (specifically strong winds and lashing rain) affected most UK sporting fixtures over the weekend and yesterday’s Harlequins 24-20 away victory over Worcester Warriors, taking them above Leicester Tigers to third in the Premiership, was no exception.
[As your Quins correspondent, with a self-imposed brief only to add such colour and/or specialist insight as I can to reports that Rust readers might find in the sporting pages of their daily newspapers, I am left with something of a dilemma since firstly, I only watched BT Sport’s live coverage of the match from the comfort of my sofa (as may some NR readers) and thus secondly – to be brutally frank – I have very little to add and do not propose to detain you long.]
From personal experience I can testify that in winter time the Sixways Stadium is a soulless, cold and forbidding ground on the edge of an industrial estate and that yesterday – both from my perspective as a viewer and the post-match comments of Conor O’Shea – the pitch was a quagmire, hardly conducive to open, running rugby. That said (and to be fair), both teams did their best to break away whenever they could from the traditional ‘stick it up your jumper’ mud-wrestling so beloved of old-school forwards in such conditions.
Let’s get the cliché out of the way immediately – this was a proverbial game of two halves.
In front of a crowd of just over 9,000 Quins totally dominated the first stanza, ending it 3-17 (and two tries) to the good, and went further out to 24-3 in the third minute of the second half when winger Charlie Walker went over for the third – and his second – try. At that point, whilst indulging in the inevitable and boring surfeit of kick-tennis prompted by the conditions, both teams seemed to be playing to their respective league positions. To all intents and purposes, it seemed ‘game over’ and, with Quins picking and choosing deftly from their bag of tricks, they looked nailed-on for yet another bonus-point win.
I therefore did what any sensible supporter would do and relaxed – in my case, by nipping out to the kitchen to grab myself a cup of tea and slice of chocolate cake.
However, so [it appeared] did Quins.
When Worcester took a deep breath and greatly upped their intensity and dynamism (as well they might in the circumstances, with nothing to lose), instead of quelling the challenge by immediately meeting fire with fire, the visitors retreated into passive mode and thereby conceded both initiative and momentum.
For neutral onlookers, the subsequent prolonged Worcester fight-back would have added welcome interest to proceedings. For Quins fans it was just puzzling and exasperating in equal measure. Suffice it to say – never mind some quirky ‘rub of the green’ refereeing by Wayne Barnes that saw not least our first two yellow cards of the season at different points in the action – by the last ten minutes we were ‘hanging on’ in desperation and could easily have lost.
I came away from the game with two thoughts, one good and one bad.
Firstly, a victory (and 4 points) on the distant road is never to be sniffed at and – in comparison to last season’s Quins campaign– we certainly cannot complain about where we currently stand in the league.
Secondly, another performance such as we witnessed yesterday will butter no parsnips at all next weekend at the Stoop when Quins host the runaway league leaders Saracens.