This, my last blog post of the 2014/2015 season, follows Quins’ 26-27 defeat to Bath last Friday night at the Stoop – a slightly atypical loss amongst our many this term in that it followed an exciting ding-dong battle in which the lead changed six times and the outcome could have gone either way.
Almost exactly twelve months previously Bath – already by then a resurgent team after recent investments and an influx of new players – had made the same away trip needing to win to make the last Premiership play-off place. It was an all-or-nothing match because Quins needed to record their fifth successive Premiership win in order to do likewise (at Bath’s expense).
Quins then won a desperately tight match and Bath were devastated. [Mind you, Quins then went on to lose meekly in their semi-final, by then having nothing left to give].
Last Friday, another season on, Bath were bigger and stronger than ever. Even their bench was packed full of seasoned internationals. They’ve had a great season with George Ford – now England’s first choice fly half – pulling the strings and his father Mike (head coach) directing operations. I can see them comfortably making the Premiership final later this month, if not winning it.
Against them, Quins were always going to be under pressure up front, with captain Joe Marler out injured and sticking plaster keeping many of the first squad together with just one more game to go after this.
Quins gave it everything on the night but, as a contest, it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was a case of ‘men against boys’. When George Ford potted the penalty that took Bath a point ahead with six minutes to go, it seemed only poetic justice.
For Quins fans the occasion marked the last home appearances of Ugo Monye (retiring) and George Robson, who is off to France for a retirement pension after a decade of service.
Ugo, now 32, is one of the club’s all-time folk heroes. He has been with it his entire 13-year rugby career, from callow skinny sprinter to bulked-up dreadnought battleship-style winger – from Premiership debutant to British Lions try-scorer. He was never the most skilful player, but he always gave 100% in both defence and attack and at his best – in his late twenties – was world class.
Last Friday, inevitably, Ugo scored twice. The first try a simple run-in and the second, towards the end of the match – a bull-doze through one tackle and bursting through two more defenders in going over the line to touch-down with an outstretched hand – was a spit-second moment of international finishing that England would love to have had available in the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
He was neither a glamourous nor a particularly large lock, but he did more than his share of Quins’ hard yards, called the line-outs and did plenty of unseen but much-appreciated stuff around the park.
He never let Quins down and we fans wish him every success in France.
Now for a break and a big think. Am I going to renew my season tickets for next year or not?