Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stonewall Quins (Harlequins 15 - Bristol 8)

The talk in the bar after what was an otherwise forgettable game at the Stoop yesterday was how much the Quins defence has improved during the season. Saving an interception try, Bristol's attack came away with a solitary penalty to show for their days work. This was a game were we huffed and we puffed for long periods without being able to get over the whitewash, but despite a late rally by Bristol were able to hold on for the win. In previous years the consensus was that Quins would have folded under the pressure of the last five minutes and let the game slip.

That we didn't is due to the fact that we now have one of the most streetwise back rows in the premiership. They might not tear around the pitch making big one on one hits or run over people in attack (we have Tani Fuga for that) but they are there consistently making the hard yards and hitting rucks when we are attacking and making the tackles around fringes and getting on the wrong side and slowing the ball down in defence. Yesterday they really earned their corn. With the backs misfiring (save for one sublime cross kick from Jarvis to Monye, that was an ankle tap tackle away from being a candidate for try of the season) the pack kept the ball going forward recycling and moving through the phases until Bristol infringed. In defence in the last five minutes they bent but did not break, delivering a heroic try line stand to the noisy approval of the Stoop faithful.

Other positives on the day, tighthead Mike Ross' wrecking ball performance at scrum-time (Bristol were lucky not give away more than one penalty) and the defensive lineout that had Bristol in fits all game long. Negatives, AJ did not have the best of games kicking from hand, and our makeshift centre pairing of Mel Deane and Hal Luscombe did not fire, giving Quins very little penetration in the three-quarters. I think Luscombe needs a Will Greenwood type distributor to run off rather than the bang it up the middle approach of Deane (who admittedly had a good game in defence).

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