Saturday 5th December 2015 – The Stoop – Harlequins 38 London Irish 7.
Make no mistake about it, this was a Grade A Premiership rout played out in front of RFU CEO Ian Ritchie and new England head coach Eddie Jones sitting in the stands.
The Australian will have liked what he saw as regards the home team’s England squadders who played their full part in proceedings. The Quins’ playing style depends upon fitness, passing skills, backing up the man with the ball and (above all) confidence – and happily the last of these, growing all season, has begun to seed its own momentum.
With the ongoing effects of Storm Desmond being felt in south-west London all day, causing some of us to worry that they would turn the match into a lottery, Quins’ all-round supremacy was scarcely reflected in their 10-0 half-time lead (7 of them from a converted Tim Visser try not long before the break) largely because they’d been playing into the Force 5 wind.
Summer signing Scottish international Visser, an archetypal modern ‘strike’ winger (i.e. easily big enough to play in the back row) is a 24-carat class act who has hit the ground running since arriving south. He went on to score a hat-trick and would have had four but for a correct hairline TMO decision that he’d put a foot in touch as he was tackled in going over the line – a fate that had also befell lightning-quick returning-from-injury Ross Chisholm in the first half who, not long after coming off the bench for the injured Ollie Lindsay-Hague, was put clear and engaged the after-burners to streak down the ring wing tramlines only to be denied by a whisker as he slid home beside the corner flag.
The lofty home crowd expectations as the players returned for the second stanza were not disappointed. With Nick Evans enjoying an Indian summer in orchestrating things at fly half – he looks far fitter and stronger than he was last term – and captain Danny Care keen to going through his all-action repertoire in front of the new England coach (he scorched over for a try of his own on 47 minutes) it was only a matter of time before Quins notched a welcome bonus point fourth try … and then a fifth. At that point the score was 38-0 [it could have been well over 50 but for the conditions and the ‘rub of the green’], which is why the visitors’ sole (converted) try in the last minute was an unfortunate aberration that distorted the true extent of the gulf in play and class between the teams.
Irish now stand ‘played 6, lost 6’, rooted at the bottom of the league and on this evidence must be favourites for the drop.