It may seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but there is a distinct reason why I wish to begin my piece upon yesterday’s Premiership clash between Harlequins and bottom-of-the-table Worcester Warriors with a representative example of a professional journalist’s report of the game from the website of the – DAILY TELEGRAPH
In summary, for public consumption – and I hope I am not putting words in our Director of Rugby’s mouth here – Conor O’Shea is giving the world to understand that Quins’ recent practice, of still taking the points despite struggling to overcome the opposition, is a minor form of triumph given our long list of Six Nations duty and/or injury absentees.
That is not how the whingers in my section of the LV = Stand see it at all.
As detailed in my previous fifteen reports from the trenches, Quins have had a dismal 2013/2014 season.
We began it in second gear and – with only brief exceptions – have stayed there. We have rarely dominated our matches, let alone swept all before us in a firecracker orgy of invention and joyous all-out, irresistible, quick-passing attack, as this same group of players used to do on every outing just two years ago.
The original excuses – internationals unavailable (resting after their summer tours) and a lengthy list of injured players – just about ‘covered’ events up to December. However, since then – certainly at home at the Stoop – the first team squad has been playing as if someone has replaced their mandatory pre-match protein drinks with pints of a very-effective sleeping draught.
As we sat down in our seats yesterday – unusually close to kick-off time, it has be said, because on our way from the Sussex Arms to the ground we had been lured by a sign on the pavement offering beer on an industrial estate around the corner at £3 a pint from Twickenham Brewery, something we felt needed investigating – my guest pleaded aloud to those around us “Come on Quins – please tell me that our performance today will not be an insipid as last time’s [by which he meant the most recent 18-14 home victory death-struggle over Newcastle Falcons, not last weekend’s lacklustre 20-25 defeat at Gloucester] …”
But is exactly how it was. At half-time, with Quins 3-13 down [and the 3 was an in-front-of-the-posts penalty just seconds before the break], I told a neighbour that it had been the worst 40 minutes of Quins rugby I’d seen in a decade. My guest added his sixpenny-worth by suggesting that, after nipping to the gents toilet, he might just go for a walk and see whether the Twickenham Brewery was still open.
It was that bad. You could tell it was because of the lack of match atmosphere and degree of gallows humour in my vicinity.
Despite the fact that Worcester Warriors are propping up the league table – this was their 16th defeat in 16 matches – they had come to the Stoop to play and were good value for their 10 point lead at half-time. The facts are that, in the second stanza, Quins then scored an unanswered 18 points – including two tries – to lead 21-13, but then had to cling on as Worcester surged back, trying for a losing bonus point or even an unlikely victory. They managed to score a deserved converted try with five minutes to go and then it was desperation (‘all hands to the pump’) time for Quins up to the final whistle.
Sometimes results tell the truth. Last week, Quins lost to Gloucester and this week Gloucester were five-tries-thrashed (39-13) by our play-off rivals Northampton Saints. Meanwhile, we could only squeak a 1 point win at home over the relegation-doomed bottom club.
Many more performances like this and I’ll be seriously considering a non-renewal of my season tickets. Life is too short to watch the sort of product Quins are giving their fans at the moment. I could be home on my sofa with a cup of tea and a Bath bun, watching Celebrity Pointless.