[The Stoop, Sunday 9th February: Harlequins 11 London Wasps 10]
… and I wished I hadn’t bothered!
Yesterday I had committed to attending a lunch in honour of a Canadian cousin’s offspring and his fiancée who had flown in from Moscow at short notice, this whilst erroneously believing that Harlequins were kicking off their London derby Premiership match against Wasps at 1.00pm on Saturday, instead of Sunday as was the case.
This wasn’t exclusively my fault. The fixture list originally published had it as Saturday, but somewhere along the line the broadcaster (BT on this occasion) had requested the switch, but I had not registered it until 48 hours after accepting the luncheon invitation. As a man of honour, I did not feel I could pull out in the circumstances and resigned myself to avoiding all media until I had returned home last night and could watch my recorded ‘live’ coverage of the game.
As things turned out, the lunch was hugely enjoyable.
My North American relation is one of the open-faced, eternally-positive, engaging conversationalist variety – now working for a large American corporation. I first met him at our family’s 47-person 1999 ‘Millennium Reunion’ on the shore of Lake Huron where, as a spotty 13-year-old, he had organised surprisingly entertaining daily ‘kids’ dramatic performances’ after our evening meals in the marquee. Now, degrees at two Ivy League universities later, he is carving out a dazzling career in ‘HR’.
Arriving home at 6.00pm, I strapped myself in to watch the game, thankfully fast-forwarding through 45 minutes’ worth of build-up to the first whistle.
The experience turned into (yet another) two hours’ worth of wasted personal life. The only excuses were the fact that both sides were denuded of their Six Nations-bound internationals and the prevailing weather conditions – wet underfoot and a strong, swirling, wind – against which Quins were playing in the first half.
Wasps had arrived with a plan, which they executed well. To be honest, at the death, they wuz robbed of a deserved victory.
In contrast, Quins barely made it out of second gear. Even the crowd’s chanting sounded half-hearted. In his pre-match interviews, our Messiah [head coach Conor O’Shea] is fond of promising that all will be well “if we can get our game on the park …”
I have to report that yesterday we didn’t. Quins were second of two throughout, until – in a desperate last-ditch all-out assault that seemed doomed to failure on the evidence of the previous 78 minutes – winger Sam Smith, who has been shown the door and will join Worcester Warriors next season, somehow managed to wriggle out of a two-man tackle and plant the front edge of the ball somewhere close to the whitewash in the right-hand corner.
To this observer, it seemed he had done so agonisingly short of the try-line but, after a prolonged visit to the studio truck of the unseen video official for the answer to the referee’s ‘Try or no Try?’ query, the response came back to Quins’ advantage.
Wasps kicked off again with about 90 seconds to go. Quins immediately coughed-up the ball at the restart and there followed a potential slow-motion car crash period of frantic Quins defence until the ball squirted out of Wasps’ control and the final whistle blew immediately.
The result was a ‘get out of jail card’ moment for Quins, in terms of a prospective top-four (play-off) finish to the season. If we can play this badly and still win, I guess that all hope is not entirely lost.