Just in

An okay evening I suppose

Thursday 13th October: European Challenge Cup group stage – Harlequins v Stade Francais as the Stoop, kick-off 7.45pm. Result: Harlequins 43 (five points) Stade Francais 21 (0 points).

Last night’s trip to a less than 60% full Stoop (why do organisers of these competitions insist upon midweek evening games?) heralded the opening of Quins’ 2016/2017 European campaign against a French club with which they have a considerable history.

It was also an occasion upon which two well-worn sporting clichés could be deployed – a ‘game of two halves’ and an instance of yet another French team ‘not travelling well’.

At the interval the men in quartered-coloured shirts were 31-7 and four tries to the good, a position thoroughly deserved on the play to that point. For all the size and stars featuring within their ranks Stade had lived up to the eternal query upon everyone’s lips before the game (“Which French team will turn up?”) with a disjointed, semi-disinterested and feeble performance.

Quins meanwhile had gone about their business with clinical efficiency and not a little verve. Returning prop Joe Marler emerged from beneath a rumble over the Stade line with the first try after four minutes. Outsides Marchant and Visser were then on the ends of two breaks and spectacular sequences of passing before Man of the Match James Chisholm – a young back row forward making a considerable impact now that his first team opportunity has finally come – barrelled over the line from 20 yards out, leaving four or more would-be tacklers floundering in his wake, just before the 40-minute mark.

The only issue remaining was whether Quins would push on towards a cricket score or, alternatively, whether Stade’s anticipated half-time dose of the hair dryer treatment would prompt the second of the two clichés to transpire.

It was the latter. Both sides scores two tries in the second stanza – Stade managed to covert both theirs and Quins (try scorers Visser and Chisholm again) only one, but Stade dominated possession whilst Quins, presumably despite all efforts to avoid this, had clearly lost their mental edge and focus.

So there we have it. In the record book a most satisfactory first victory of the season in Europe for Quins but for those home fans trudging bed-wards in the cool night air also a low-key sense of disappointment over the tepid deflation of their team’s balloon in the second half.

About Derek Williams

A recently-retired actuary, the long-suffering Derek has been a Quins fan for the best part of three decades. More Posts