Saturday, February 17, 2007

Laying some ghosts to rest (Northampton 15 - Harlequins 28)

I was at Franklin Gardens two years ago when Quins lost to a last second try, starting the slide that would lead us to relegation. For most of the second half of this match I got that familiar feeling that we were going to throw it all away again. Trailing by 6 points with 5 minutes to go Northampton threw the kitchen sink at Quins stringing together a sequence of around 15 phases that went touchline to touchline several times. However our defence held firm, turned the ball over, and Mel Deane led a break out that eventually ended in Steve "so-slo" So'oialo diving over from a yard out in front of the travelling support. Cue much spilled beer and general jumping around by the Quins faithful and a mad rush to the exit by the Saints fans.

To be honest this was too scrappy a game to be truly enjoyable. From 2nd minute when play was stopped for several minutes to allow Stuart Abbott to work which county he was in following a clash of heads, it was a stop start affair. What running rugby there was, was mostly from Saints although their lack of precision and some committed Harlequin defence meant that except at the death they were unable to string more than a few phases together before coughing up the ball. What ball Quins had they mostly kicked away, often failing to find touch and therefore handing the initiative back to Saints and their back three of Lamont, Reihana and Cohen. A more potent set of strike runners on paper you will struggle to find in the premiership, highlighted by Cohen's 70 yard break for Saints 2nd try after Quins failed to follow up a restart effectively.

"Big Ben" will undoubtedly be putting that on run on his personal highlight reel but I doubt very little else from this game will make it. He was done all ends up David Strettle for Quins' second try, dropped a couple of kicks including one sitter when under no pressure (and most enjoyable right in front of us, "Carrot for Mr Cohen!") and in a tear your hair out moment if you are Paul Grayson the Saints coach had a penalty reversed in the Quins 22 for punching little Mike Brown (cue much aggressive clucking from the female element in the Quins end). I think its fair to say that of he wants to get his England place back he should stop whining and start working on his basics, at the moment he wouldn't make Quins' 1st XV let alone Englands.

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