For logistical reasons, nobody in their right mind would choose their sport to be played on a Friday.
Last night, given that the Harlequins had travelled the best part of 200 miles ‘Oop North’ to take on Sale Sharks in a dog-eat-dog clash that would leave one of them out of Premiership play-off contention, attending in person was quite out of the question for your author. That said, I have to admit that there are worse ways of following your favourite team than raising the home drawbridge, strapping yourself into your favourite armchair front of your 50 inch television, switching to the BT Sports 1 coverage at 7.00pm with forty-five minutes to kick-off, and turning the quadrophonic sound system up to eight-and-a-half.
This is the business end of the season or, as Brutus put it in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar [Act 4. Scene 3, 218-224):
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
A couple of weeks ago Conor O’Shea dismayed Quins fans by omitting three of our four England players from the team to play Saracens at Wembley. We got thrashed, of course, and might have been even if they’d played, but Conor had calculated that saving them for a season-end ‘winner takes all’ eight-match burst was a better strategy.
Maybe he was right after all. Two matches in, and we’re on a roll.
In the Premiership table, Bath Rugby – albeit still above us in fourth place with a game in hand – are now only one point ahead and we’re in the semi-final of the (European) Amlin Cup. Nick Evans is on fire and all-round the team seem more self-confident than they have been in nearly eighteen months.
Last night’s 12-27 victory had its moments. In the build-up, television pundits Craig Doyle, Laurence Dallaglio and Austin Healey – aided and abetted by O’Shea and his counterpart Steve Diamond – cranked up the stereotypes … Sale the never-give-up grafters with a miserly defence, versus the high-risk, all-singing, all-dancing Quins attackers.
Which of them would win this one-off shoot-out game?
Inevitably, perhaps, Sale came out of the blocks determined to meet fire with fire and, dominating early possession, scored an unconverted try in the corner within seven minutes. Danny Cipriani, fresh from his award as Premiership player of the month for March, conjured an overlap with a long ‘over the top’ pass … and that was that.
Worrying times. But Quins regrouped and grew into the match. By the time Evans had spotted a prop in the Sale line and shimmied his way past two more defenders to crash over beside the posts, we were mounting wave-after-wave at just too much pace for the Sale defensive system to cope. Ten minutes before half-time, after a quickly-taken line-out on our own 22, a 70 metre many-phased drive saw Danny Care sniping a second try behind a snarl-up on the Sale line.
And so it continued. The only surprise on the night was that it took us until inside the last eight minutes to notch the additional bonus point for a 4-try win.
At a stroke, Conor O’Shea is no longer an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s doing and the first team squad are back to their 2012 Premiership championship-winning best.
Quins are going all the way!
How did we ever doubt them – nothing can stop us now!
Bring on Leicester Tigers next Friday at the Stoop – we’re going to murder ‘em!
Conor for a hereditary peerage, even though he’s Irish!
(And so to bed) …