The Harlequins will not win the Premiership ‘A’ League [second team] title in 2014/2015.
That is a statistical fact not a prediction. After last night’s game at the Stoop – a heavy defeat at the hands of Saracens Storm – we are languishing at the bottom of the Southern Conference group and therefore cannot now progress to the knock-out stage.
On this evidence, perhaps it is just as well.
As the teams ran onto the pitch, the difference in sheer physical size could have been viewed as symptomatic of a key problem in rugby’s Premiership – the phrase ‘men against boys’ is a cliché but it came to mind because, in rugby – just in the fight trade – the old adage ‘a good big ‘un will always beat a good little ‘un’ has an uncanny knack of ringing true.
I pick the opposing locks in order to highlight, not exaggerate, the issue.
Sarries fielded Hayden Smith (aged 29, 6 feet 7, 21 caps for America, who has also played in the NFL) and Mouritz Botha (aged 33, a South African with has 3 caps for England, 6 feet 6), both of them just shy of 19 stone.
Their Quins counterparts were academy members Sam Twomey (22, 6 feet 5 and 18 stone) and Stan South (18, 6 feet 5 and 17 and a half stone). They might not have looked completely out of it size-wise but, at this stage in their careers, the combined 22 years’ difference in age and experience between our pair and theirs tells all you need to know.
Another familiar rugby saying is that the packs decide which team wins and the backs by how much.
This chicken came home to roost last night. At scrum-time, generally speaking, on the occasions when there wasn’t a collapse immediately the ball went in, the engaged packs resembled nothing more than a giant woodlice scuttling towards the Quins try-line with intent. If this had been boxing, the referee could have stopped the contest (to avoid the Quins boys taking further punishment ) with justification.
At this level, when the clubs involved have such a discrepancy in terms of experience and maturity in the squads they can call upon, it does beg the question ‘What’s the bloody point?’
In saying that, I’m not attacking Saracens per se, or indeed making excuses for Quins – there are less well funded clubs who would cite Quins as one of the privileged ‘fat cats’ in the Premiership.
It’s just that – for we paying punters – as contests, not all ‘A’ League games are value for money. As we took our places in the stand my brother, who had hooked up with me for the evening, predicted a 25-point margin. He was not far wrong – the final score was 3-27 – and we felt unrepentant in heading for the exit during a prolonged injury break on the Quins line five minutes from the end.
From a Quins’ perspective, without wishing to clutch at straws, I guess that – from a coach’s point of view – the benefits of a game like this one are quasi-masochistic. You know you are sending your kids out to take a battering, but at least perhaps you’ll be able to see how they react to being under the cosh. Gauge their character, courage and spirit, if you like.
No … it doesn’t wash with me either.
To finish, some notes upon individual Quins performances.
One of Quins’ folk heroes, 25 year old centre George Lowe, played a commendable 60 minutes in his comeback game after 13 months out with a serious neck injury that at one stage might have ended his career.
In the back row James Chisholm, the 19-year-old junior world cup winner (England Under-20) and captain for the night, looked classy and never gave up.
Olly Lindsay-Hague (wing threequarter) and Jordan Burns (scrum half) sparkled when they could, which wasn’t often, but – as lightweights, neither of them weighing more than 12 and a half stone – both confirmed my impression that they are just too small to make serious marks upon the modern 15-a-side professional game.
Ben Botica – Nick Evans’ understudy at fly-half – went off with what looked like a potentially serious shoulder injury early in the second half.