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At last!

Derek Williams spots a potential green shoot of hope

Let’s not beat about the bush. In yesterday’s pulsating contest Harlequins survived a late comeback from Wasps and were outscored by three tries to two, but even a 26-23 victory is a win.

As Churchill would have said, this was not even the end of the beginning – there were far too many Quins dozy decisions and basic errors to be able to say that – but, sitting in the stands, by half-time (at 9-13 down) I had seen enough to be quietly confident that we would prevail.

Wasps had arrived at the Stoop on the back of an outstanding victory last weekend over Premiership champions Northampton Saints and with their skipper James Haskell being hailed as the latest threat to Chris Robshaw’s position in the England squad. They added some serious ballast during the close season and, on this showing, will be vying for a top four or five place. In Nathan Hughes (No 8) and Elliot Daly (outside centre) they have two youngsters with realistic outside chances of making the England world cup squad.

I’ve been a fan of both Daly and Marland Yarde (Quins’ new signing from London Irish) ever since my brother and I first saw them playing as centres together in the Whitgift team that won the Daily Mail Schools Under-18 final at Twickenham four years ago and immediately predicted them as future internationals. Yarde, already an England incumbent at wing threequarter of course, yesterday had his best game for Quins so far, contributing all over the field without quite setting the world alight. The good news is that he is finally settling into our style of play.

Quins secured the victory in a twenty-minute burst at the beginning of the second stanza.

They came out buzzing and set up camp in the Wasps half of the pitch, stepping up the speed of attacking play and pressurising their defence into errors. The first touchdown was Robshaw’s and the second a penalty try courtesy of a trip by Wasps’ lock Kearan Myall on Ben Botica as he chipped through on the 22 metre line. Shortly afterwards, with Botica in commanding form from the kicking tee, Quins went 26-12 up and it all seemed over bar the shouting with maybe even a four-try bonus point in prospect.

Inevitably perhaps, with hope comes disappointment – cue an 11-point Wasps surge in the last quarter of an hour which left both sides left slugging it out toe-to-toe (metaphorically) as the clock wound down to the final whistle.

jordanTo finish, a negative and two positives.

The bustling pocket battleship Jordan Turner-Hall at centre (six feet and 16 and a half stone) was an academy sensation when he made his Quins debut at 17. However, after about two seasons he had been ‘worked out’ by opposition teams and was increasingly nullified as a ‘one trick pony’ attacking threat.

Now 26, he’s been injured a lot in the last eighteen months and in career terms is going nowhere. Yesterday he had a shocker. He must have dropped passes or spilled the ball in the tackle at least half a dozen times and he was skinned by Daly to put in Guy Thompson for Wasps’ first try. Hopefully this was just a bad day at the office.

charlieOn the plus side, this was the game in which lock Charlie Matthews (aged 23, 6 feet 8 and 18 stone), one of my tips for the top over the last three seasons, finally came of age. He’s grown his hair during the summer, no longer wears a scrum cap and – right from the off – seemed to have been fed all week on testosterone-marinated raw meat. Talk about putting himself about! He was sound at the set pieces, particularly the line out, but in addition he tackled live a dervish, fought a running battle with his opposite number Myall and must have got involved in half a dozen off-the-ball skirmishes. Ironically, in the context of what for me was his ‘man of the match’ display, he received his yellow card with six minutes to go for an unwarranted deliberate ‘defensive knock-on’ when in fact he went to intercept the ball and merely fumbled the catch. Even he saw the humorous side of it as he walked off to a mini-ovation.

Finally, a mention in dispatches for big (6 feet 2 and 16 stone) Harry Sloan, our 20 year old England Under-20 centre and junior world cup winner, who was making his first starting appearance this season. He looked classy in all he did and, with a run of games, could settle in nicely.


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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