Although I went to a couple of Quins games last year I still found myself a bit bemused on Saturday? The Stoop has been a second home to me for many summers as a London Broncos season ticket holder; I’m so not used to seeing it full of actual people! Once they’d all sat down my discomfort eased, phew!
Before I move on to the game, a mention for Tom Williams, it’s no mean feat to make 200 hundred appearances for the same club at the top level! A mark he reached just short of his 30th birthday, well done Tom!
Now to the actual game! I felt very nervous about facing Harlequins at the Stoop in spite of the fact that Saracens had won 7 of the last 8 games against them. That seems a little crazy as Saracens sat at the top of the table with 3 bonus point wins, but I couldn’t see a bonus point victory happening. The first half proved to be a very tense matter with Nick Evans scoring a penalty to out the first 3 points on the board for Quins. Evans nearly turned from hero to zero after Richard Wigglesworth charged down a kick from the line, he was very close to scoring but couldn’t quite touch down. Ugo Monye showed every aspiring rugby player how to make the perfect tackle after Owen Farrell gave Chris Wyles a hospital ball; it was perfect in every way! I do have to ask again, how do you get up after any tackle let alone a huge hit like Monye put in!
As we’ve seen and read about in recent weeks the scrum proved to be a problem for the whole game, I have no idea what all the collapsing and resetting does for the players, but for the spectator? Goodness it’s boring! I’m watching the game on TV as I write this, I am the sort of oddball who watches the game live and then watches it again, and deary me Alex Goode! What were you thinking of? Step into a players line and you commit a professional foul, a deserved yellow card I’m afraid! So with 11 minutes on the clock Saracens went 6 points down after Evans, in possession of his kicking boots this year converted the resulting penalty! A soft 3 points!
Saracens have a wealth of talent all over the pitch but with a man down the forwards really came into their own and the next score was a good kick from Farrell after a penalty was won by the pack to take the gap down to just 3 points. With Goode off the pitch Wyles; a fine utility back stepped into his shoes catching a ball and calling the mark at one point; a small moan, I hate that part of the game! It stops all momentum, it should be taken out as a possibility for me! Rant over! Goode returned to the pitch with Saracens having been the only team to score, none too shoddy! Listening to the commentary as I’m writing I sense a real reluctance by the BT Sport boys to give any compliments when it comes to Saracens, a bit grrrr that! A tackle by Jacques Burger resulted in another penalty for Quins, oops, the man didn’t have the ball in his hands! Burger has been beyond awesome since his return from a very long injury, it can’t be easy to be away from the game for so long, I’d imagine he’s a very scary thought for any opposition player! Alex Sanderson is being interviewed on the TV as I type, always a surprise to hear a rugby league voice associated with union! The rest of the half was largely dominated by the forwards. One exciting moment was a break away by a returning Kelly Brown after he took the ball from the lineout, a try seemed to be scored, but the verdict of no was correct in that Tom Williams held Brown up. However handbags followed and Fa’asavalu was sin binned after pulling Burger’s hair???? I have to be honest here and admit I missed that totally, I had no idea he’d been binned! Danny Care threw several punches at Billy Vunipola maybe not a wise decision, but that was missed by the officials. Farrell converted the resulting penalty, but the favour was returned by Duncan Taylor holding onto the ball to see the teams go in at Harlequins 12 Saracens 6.
I wrote down, too many basic errors by Saracens in the first half, something I imagine Steve Borthwick wouldn’t have been happy about, I’m sure Quins will have gone into the changing rooms the happier team. I feel fairly certain there may have been some strong chat in the Saracens changing room, because once the second half had started it was fairly plain to me that only one team was going to win the game! As the half progressed I came to the understanding that all clubs have fans who believe that their team never give a penalty away or knock on, I’m all for supporting your team, but really?? People, every team gets things wrong in the game it’s tough stuff!
Bearing in mind I had no idea I was watching 15 against 14; I do watch the game honest! Saracens seemed to come out with more intent and so it was to prove with Quins not adding points to their tally. Quins did have a great rolling maul to put them in a good attacking position early I’m the half; Goode knocked on after Evans kicked a high ball, however they couldn’t convert the territory advantage into points as Saracens won a penalty from the scrum much to the disgust of the Quins fans around me. Something for all fans to remember, referees clearly make mistakes, ask Northampton! But, they are close to the action and more often than not spot on! Saracens won a penalty at the next scrum too, giving Farrell a chance to close the gap further, he got the distance not the accuracy, his first miss in 14 kicks! Farrell made up for his miss by backing himself a couple of times and finding a gap, his pass to Wyles allowed Chris Ashton to run onto a short pass to go in for a try under the posts. Good to see the try maker of recent weeks become the try scorer. I’m not so sure I’m a fan of the booing as the try was awarded, bit Wendyball ish that!
Now at 54 minutes my words about Joe Marler in picking him for my England team came back to bite me, well to bite Quins anyway. An amazing rolling maul was pulled down by Marler and he in effect took a yellow for the team, spotted that one! The resulting play saw a penalty rewarded and Farrell converted as James Johnston came on the pitch to cheers from his old fans. Neil De Kock took Wigglesworth’s place, Saracens have good depth at scrum half with Ben Spencer waiting in the wings. A clear penalty was given away by a throw straight to the Quins line, to many howls from the Quins fans; Borthwick forcing the issue after a spot of man to man marking. The resulting scrum collapsed, it looks so very dangerous to me, I confess I’d hate to watch my son paying hooker! (Not that he plays, all about girls!). Jacques Burger I must admit seemed to be a very positive focus for Austin Healy especially after he won another penalty with the help of David Strettle. The points gap stretched to 7 points. Although Quins hadn’t looked like scoring and most of the play had been in their half, it did surprise me to hear a fan say with 14 minutes to go we need to hope for a losing bonus point!
The Quins fan was right however and a penalty at 66 minutes, with Greenwood praising Saracens! Woohoo! Took the score to Harlequins 12 Saracens 22; this was to be the final score. A hugely impressive and determined second half by the men in the blue and washed out shirts, a better performance for me than the previous 3 games. I hate to say this but it’s been unusual for me to see my team win at the Stoop, thank goodness for Saracens! As I was leaving a Quins fan lifted disappointed shoulders at me, but was very pleasant when I showed him my Saracens scarf; not so from the lady in multi coloured top who seemed to think the ref changed his top to grey and blue at half time. Not so; Quins made a fair few errors in the half, some forced some not. We have to as fans of the game put our hands up when our team has been well and fairly beaten. Well done Saracens, something special is happening! Quins will be a tough team to beat, but 2 of the potential top four have done so already at the Stoop this year, I still expect to see them finish in the top six.
A special footnote by way of a note to self! Next time I go to a top game I must remind myself not to take a rude psycho date with me, I hate to say it Quins fans, he was one of yours (apparently) and as well as texting other women all through the game, he fell asleep!!! What was more offensive?? Why? Missing the game of course! One for the proverbial dating bin methinks 🙂