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Hardly worth the bother

European Challenge Cup Pool 5 (group stage): Timisoara Saracens v Harlequins at the Dan Paltinisanu Stadium, kick-off 1300 hours UK time: Result – Timisoara Saracens 3 Harlequins 42. Half-time score 3-21. Bonus point secured for Harlequins one minute into the second half. Tries for Quins by Ward, Merrick, Morris, Walker (2), Marchant. Jackson 6 conversions.

Close to two years ago, when it was first put to me that I should write my column from the perspective of a long-time rugby fan’s sometimes joyous, sometimes tortuous, relationship with the club he supports, my decision to accept the responsibility was not taken lightly by either the Rust’s editorial secretariat or myself.

Over a series of lunches and discussions it was agreed that it should be a column concentrating upon my personal odyssey and not simply a series of reports upon Harlequins on-field fortunes and results (readers could get those – probably more insightful and better written, from the media).

If I was moved to despair and depression at Quins’ ineptitude and contemplating hara-kiri outside Gate 1 in the North Stand in protest, this would be reflected in my scribblings just as much as if I was euphoric and overwhelmed with excitement, pride and triumph as we continued upon our triumphant way to yet another English Premiership and European Rugby Champions Cup double.

It was recognised by both parties that there were inherent dangers in the details of our agreed arrangement. Suppose Quins hit a run of poor form … or I lost interest … or I couldn’t get to the matches … or I got fed up writing my column? It didn’t matter, I was told. Following in the tradition of the self-styled ‘gonzo journalism’ of Dr Hunter S. Thompson, if I went off-piste and thereby down one or two back-waters and tributaries of my primary purpose – so be it. Reflecting one man’s actuality was the core intention of the brief.

It was to be a case of one man’s ‘journey’ – these days, of course, a studiously-awful hackneyed term seemingly deployed by every contestant on X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!, and everybody ever interviewed by mainstream television, as they seek and fail to describe intelligently what has been happening to them whilst they have been – rightly or wrongly – in the public eye.

And so it has come to this.

Yesterday morning I accompanied my personal ‘Ball and Chain’ on a weekend food shop at a well-known supermarket – both of us harbouring trepidation as we did so I might add, given that we are now this close to Christmas, but in the event the anticipated public crush we faced was not too bad – and returned home to open a bottle of cheap pink fizz in celebration before then going online in order to find out if I could follow this Harlequins match taking place in Romania, kick-off at lunchtime.

To begin with, the omens were not good. A session on Google produced no clear ideas. It was immediately clear that British sports TV stations were concentrating upon the main European competition – the Champions Cup – and, inevitably, Quins’ game against some obscure team from Romania seemed to be the one match they had (wisely?) decided not to cover at all.

Meanwhile the ‘match thread’ on fans’ website reported that, because of an impending national election, Romanian TV was not covering the game but thankfully – as often happens, lower down – some smart alec had helpfully provided a link or two to some foreign website that might be. I tried this several times and got nothing. I couldn’t be bothered to watch any of the games that were being actually covered on BT Sport and Sky Sports, so was facing the prospect of not only watching no rugby at all but having to invent something to write about this morning for my column.

Accordingly in the last chance saloon, I tried one last time on the ‘unofficial website’ that I had been directed to by the Quins fans’ website before going off for my afternoon snooze.

Eureka!

Within seconds, I was watching the Quins match in Romania, which had started nearly 15 minutes beforehand, courtesy of what appeared to be the coverage of some sort of Romanian TV station.

Apart from the fact they regularly mis-identified specific Quins players, it seemed that our commentators were operating from a position close to either the Timisoara Saracens’ coaching team – or indeed that of the Quins – because, quite audibly beneath the Romanian commentary, one was able to hear the exclamations in English of one or both: “Offside, ref!” and other similar comments were thereby accompaniments to my viewing of the game.

As a match, this was about as competitive as a mid-week training session for the Quins players. That’s not intended as an insult to the Timisoara Saracens’ players – simply a fact.

Ironically, the home team opened the scoring with a penalty.

Thereafter it was controlled one-way traffic. The result was a foregone conclusion well before half-time and about the most notable aspect of the second stanza was that Quins did not score at all in the last eighteen minutes, by which time (a flurry of replacements having occurred) everyone on the pitch was cruising, including the match officials.

And that was it, really. It doesn’t bode too well for the return match next weekend at the Stoop which, on this evidence, is going to be about as competitive as a pre-Christmas shop at Waitrose.

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