Yesterday’s personal plan was built around The Andrew Marr Show, The Big Question, the Sunday Politics Show, a canapé-finger-picking-type lunch and BT’s live television coverage of rugby’s Premiership encounter between Exeter Chiefs and Harlequins.
Unusually, the 60-minute build-up to kick-off – hosted by Craig Doyle with studio guests Nick Abendanon (of Bath) and rugby-mouth-for-hire Lawrence Dallaglio – was worthwhile and achieved its goal of heightening the anticipatory tension. It was a typical end-of-season clash with both teams needing to win in order to maintain their quests for ambitious goals – Exeter to make 7th in the league (and European rugby next term) and Quins to make fourth spot in the play-offs.
The sun was out, the Sandy Park crowd spirited and noisy. Nevertheless – as their fans, including your author, saw it – all Quins had to do was turn up and play to their recent from.
Last game at home the Chiefs had been badly whupped by Sale Sharks, on whom Quins had done a good job only three weeks ago.
I have to record that watching the match was a tortuous experience.
Quins duly saw off a determined Exeter start and then dominated possession, but spent the first half over-trying. This manifested itself in a series of petty handling errors and turnovers that allowed the home team to take advantage of sundry opportunities to score points.
16-5 down at half-time, with just 35 minutes to go Quins were on the wrong end of a 23-5 score-line, by which time this viewer was bemoaning the end of a deeply disappointing season to his empty sitting-room walls with volume and gusto.
That Quins came back to win 30-29, delivering the coup de grace with less than five minutes to go – a fourth, (therefore bonus point) unconverted try scored by substitute back rower Tom Guest who will depart for London Irish during the summer – was remarkable. However, the stress and frustration levels built up along the way meant that it did not make for enjoyable viewing.
The upshot is that at the Stoop next Saturday [10th May], in their final match of the Premiership season, Quins will play Bath in a winner-takes-all clash for the fourth and last play-off place.