At 3.30pm yesterday (Saturday 28th December), as a day-visit by a branch of the family drew to an end, we settled down to watch Quins play Exeter Chiefs in their Big Game 6 at Twickenham Stadium, on BT Sport.
It ended in a 22-6 win for the hosts in front of a 74,800 crowd who – for their pains – were apparently entertained by beforehand and at half-time by leading X-Factor contestants.
As I think I have made known in the past, I no longer attend matches at Twickenham Stadium in the flesh. I prefer the warmth of a sofa, tea, crumpets and video replays to the general slog and poor match-day experience experienced in that cavernous – and soulless – rugby cathedral.
For Quins, this game was like the proverbial curate’s egg (good in parts only).
Exeter Chiefs are an awkward bunch to play. Not over-endowed with glamorous stars or flair, they are nevertheless relentlessly ‘old school’ – dogged, hard-working, niggly, efficient, never-say-die – and difficult to beat, whether at home or on the road.
Quins had to front up, not least because of their below-par performance last week against Bath. The first half saw them score three excellent tries (to lead 19-3) and devastate Exeter with their work at the breakdown, their all-action offloading game, their interplay between forwards and backs and their precision in taking every chance that came their way. At times it seemed like the Harlem Globetrotters were back in town.
Come the second stanza and a four-try bonus point seemed inevitable. It wasn’t. For all the huffing and puffing, the only further scores were a penalty apiece – Quins players and fans alike felt deflated at the final whistle. Twice previously in the past month we have let bonus points go begging.
By my reckoning, we could or should have scored six tries minimum – at least three (two in the first half) were mindlessly ‘butchered’ with the line at our mercy. In addition, although Nick Evans scored the first try, thereafter he missed three kicks – 8 points in all – at goal. Not like him at all.
For all the first half entertainment, this ‘home’ victory over Exeter did little to convince me that Quins can be ruthless enough at the business end of this season. Looking at the unchecked steamroller, ‘killer’ instinct, results of the Saracens and Northampton Saints juggernauts, I now see a losing Premiership semi-final as the height of our 2013/2014 ambitions.
I guess it’s a fan’s thing but – if you gave me the options of Quins having either a rubbish season with occasional unexpected triumphs or, knowing we have the potential and set-up to go all the way and not doing so – I’d find it a hard choice to make.
It’s all about the hope.
I’d rather have none. That is, if the alternative is an oil tanker-full, but we then come up short!