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Saracens 52 Harlequins 7

It comes with the territory that anyone in their eighth decade – as I am – has to contend with “incoming” accusations from friends and family (in jest or otherwise) that they are prone to repeating themselves.

I became a guilty party myself once my own father reached a certain age.

Every time he began a familiar story or anecdote, I would smile and raise my left hand – rather in the style of a Red Indian in a popular American 1950s or 1960s black and white cowboy TV series greeting the hero star with a cheery “How!”.

My elder and better would also smile in acknowledgement and respond “I’m repeating myself, aren’t I?

I would nod in agreement and no more would be said. It was a private “joke”/arrangement between us and one that he gratefully encouraged.

He was not a fan of “getting on in life” and indeed developed the habit of warning all he met – even waiters in restaurants – “Let me give you a word of advice, don’t grow old …” – that is, until the occasion an old pal who was visiting for the weekend replied “Well, David, at least it’s better than the alternative!”

When it comes to the sport of rugby union, one of my favourites to play or watch, there’s little doubt that in a global sense it is facing a mix of plusses and minuses, viz., on the one hand, the concerns over head injuries, concussion and early onset dementia; the financial woes that have faced many elite professional clubs; the constant quest to maintain and/or increase the entertainment quotient of its matches … and yet, on the other, in terms of the Rugby World Cup and international competitions such as the recently-completed 2024 men’s Six Nations tournament, at times arguably the quality and spectacle of rugby play is equal to any in the world of sports and games.

Nevertheless, I now turn to my subject de jour – the resumption of play after an unprecedented “mid-season” break in the rugby’s English Premiership as witnessed at the impressive Tottenham Hotspur Stadium where yesterday, in front of a crowd estimated as in excess of 60,000, Saracens hosted the Harlequins in a much-anticipated game that I personally settled down to watch “live” on the ITVX channel.

In prospect it was being heralded by many pundits as a potentially mouth-watering 50:50 clash between two thrillingly positive clubs both in contention for Top Four play-off places.

In the end, however, it was a hugely-disappointing contest.

Nothing to do with the Saracens, whose mix of seasoned star internationals and rising young talents totally dominated the action and produced a stunning display of aggressive, front-foot rugby that would have graced any promotional How To Play Rugby demonstration.

Rather, it was the flawed and listless performance of the Harlequins that sadly caught the eye and rendered the match a proverbial “deflated souffle” long before the half-time whistle went, by which time – I regret to admit – the phrase “men against boys” had sprung to mind.

Saracens came out of the blocks with stunning verve and efficiency, scoring 4 exhilarating tries (winning a bonus point in the process) within just 27 minutes.

The final result was an (8 try) 52-7 victory for the hosts.

Seeking to provide an example of what might have been a Premier League football equivalent to this affair, I eventually alighted upon that of a 10-0 score line in a derby match between the two Manchester clubs – City and United.

It certainly made a mockery of any claim that the English rugby Premiership might have had to being a yardstick of excellence in the club version of the sport.





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About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts