It remains mathematically possible that the Harlequins could still make the last-four Premiership playoffs: with four matches to go, the ‘top six’ points scores are Saracens 72, Northampton Saints 65, Leicester Tigers 58, Bath Rugby 55, Sale Sharks 51 and Quins 49.
However, with four points for a win – plus a bonus point available for scoring 4 tries, making a theoretical maximum per match of 5 – as a minimum Quins have to win all their games, viz. Sale Sharks (away), Leicester Tigers (home), Exeter Chiefs (away) and Bath Rugby (home) … and then probably hope that other results also go their way. Realistically, the chances are slim to none.
Here I would like to apologise to those readers who have become bored by the unrelenting pessimism that has been dominating this column since I first began recording the perceptions of those, including myself, who have been watching the progress of Harlequins’ 2013/2014 season from their vantage points in the Stoop’s LV= Stand.
There have been reports in the soccer media that Sam Allardyce, manager of under-pressure West Ham United, has been booed because, despite amassing valuable points here and there, the club’s fans are unhappy with the hard-nosed style in which the team are playing – it’s not the ‘attractive footy’ that West Ham fans like to imagine is what they stand for.
I can sympathise with that. Quins have been below par all season. There are other teams that now play the ‘all-out attacking Quins style of rugby’ better than we do. We haven’t even been able to fall back on the fact that – despite not playing our own brand of rugby well, let alone ‘ugly’ – at least we’re amassing enough valuable points.
Because we aren’t even doing that.
Quins beat London Irish 23-9 yesterday and in doing so missed out on a 4-try bonus point because we scored only three tries, when we could/should have had six. Although veteran All Blacks fly half Nick Evans turned in as good a performance as I’ve seen him give in two years – he was everywhere in both attack and defence – overall this was a dismal spectacle to set before paying customers, full of unforced errors, stoppages and unfathomable decisions by referee Andrew Small.
An air of gallows humour in the LV= Stand punctured the pre-match hopefulness and buzz (in my row, “Let’s hope Quins do better than on the last two/three/four occasions – they couldn’t possibly play worse!” was about the sum of it).
And then guess what? The first whistle went … and that’s exactly how they did play. Irish, a poor side with nothing to play for now they are free of relegation-worries, did all they could to deny us the bonus-point try, not least by deploying constant time-wasting tactics. At least they succeeded in that.
Our next Premiership match – away against Sale on Friday 11th April – is going to be no picnic, but at least it may put us out of our misery.