Aviva Premiership: Round 16: Friday 11th March 2016: Harlequins v Bath Rugby at the Stoop: Result – Harlequins 35 (5 league points, win plus bonus for 4 tries), Bath Rugby 28 (1 league point for finishing within 7 of the winner).
Through force of circumstances unable to attend this scintillating home match, I was necessarily reduced to watching it ‘live’ on BT Sport.
From an objective (or neutral) point of view it was a cracker – as the commentators and pundits commented during and afterwards, one of the most entertaining and bonkers Premiership clashes of this season, if not many of recent memory.
Both teams – in eighth and ninth spots in the league respectively beforehand – have been in a trough of form [regular readers will be aware that Quins have dropped five places in the table in the last three weeks] and in desperate need of something positive to try and turn their seasons around.
Despite their money and array of stars, Bath have had a truly dreadful season. Their pack – pretty dominant last term – has seemingly gone seriously backwards … I say this mindful of the theme that in Premiership rugby – generally-speaking – in development terms, if either an individual player or a club ‘stands still’, compared to everyone else they are in fact slipping behind.
Since February Quins have effectively gone over the edge of a cliff – they’ve lost their verve, got licked badly on a few occasions and twice managed to lose games in which they’d done more than enough by 60 minutes to be ‘home and hosed’ and yet couldn’t close out (once committing hari-kiri with the clock already in overtime).
Before the match we had the usual guff in build-up, not least the obligatory previewing interviews in which both coaches say that they respect the other team, but “If we can get our game on the park with the intensity we want, we’ll be fine … We’ve come to play tonight and we cannot wait to ‘get it on’ …”
I’m not commenting on specifics, or the course of the match – you can read the newspaper reports for those – but I will say this, it was a stack of fun. Either side of half-time Quins upped their intensity and went to their box of tricks for some exhibition stuff that had the not-quite-sold-out crowd and the commentators purring with delight. To be honest, they looked imperious as they went out to a 35-6 lead, causing lead commentator Nick Mullins to warn “Bath have got to respond now, or this could become a serious rout …”
And that’s just what they did. It didn’t help that Quins suddenly got a yellow card in the line-out for ‘pulling down’ but the course of the match turned as if someone had hit a switch. Buoyed by their replacements, Bath threw caution to the winds and grabbed the initiative in no less a fashion that Quins had done earlier, scoring three tries in quick succession, leaving both sides out on their feet by the end and Quins hanging on for dear life.
As I hinted earlier, a great night’s viewing for a neutral. From the one-eyed (glass half empty) fans’ perspective, just another harum-scarum day at the office for Quins and frankly, an increasingly frustrating one. Some of us diehards are mightily fed up with being everybody’s ‘second favourite’ team – a sort of rugby version of the Harlem Globetrotters, always to be relied upon to provide a bit of pizzazz and craziness to the party, but not a serious contender when the chip are down and winning at all costs begins to matter at the business end of a season.
Sod all that. At times like this I’d trade the ‘fancy dans’ tag for a guaranteed two-point grind-out victory any day of the week.