With my team playing in Worcester the Big Game called – something of a tradition for me now having been to all six! After missing the whole of the first half of the game Saracens won a few years ago I set off early to Twickenham. That meant 3 things – less time to be tearful as my lovely daughter jetted off back to Europe. A pretty easy non M25 run to West London and, of course, an early lunch in the lovely Patisserie Valerie! Rude not to eat strawberry tart when the opportunity presents itself! A quick visit to the England Rugby Store where I was very helpfully told that the shirt I picked up was ‘a lady’s shirt’. Having explained and in fact pointed out that I am actually a lady, I bought said shirt so am now kitted out for my trip to Paris in February! Just ever so slightly excited about seeing England play at the Stade De France!
Back to matters Premiership, the now familiar big crowd for the Big Game made its way into the stadium, several thoughts in my mind. How long would it take the casual rugby fans to start a Mexican Wave and would the game be more entertaining than last years’ game against London Irish. A game which was mildly more thrilling than watching paint dry! We had the standard X Factor singers; turns out these people can actually sing! Not a bad gig in front of a 75K crowd! In spite of a loss at Bath last weekend I was expecting a gritty game against the always huge Chiefs, but a Quins win all the same.
Exeter attacked the ball from the kick off choosing to play the ball out of their own half rather than kick the ball away. That decision proved to be costly however Danny Care took the kicking option after the ball was spilt. Quins hooker Dave Ward spotted a loose ball and dived on it to win the ball on the Exeter line, Joe Marler ran the ball forward again before the ball was thrown across the line to the other side of the field. Nick Evans was the grateful recipient and ran towards the posts to score the try in his 100th Premiership game; he promptly converted the try to put his team ahead by 7 points with less than 4 minutes on the clock.
Exeter impressed with their attacking game, Dave Ewers at No 8 showing great intent as he did throughout the game. Matt Hopper who lifted Jason Shoemark in the tackle and dropped him very unceremoniously, the result was a penalty with no added yellow, possibly a lucky break for the Quin. Gareth Steenson converted the penalty to put some points on the board for the visitors. A long throw in straight to Danny Care saw Quins go very close to scoring but they gave a penalty under the posts as the ball was held in. Harlequins kept possession of the ball as their backs showed their class, they were awarded with a very kickable penalty which amazingly Nick Evans missed on 18 minutes. Danny Care provided another opportunity by feinting a pick up of the ball; Tom Johnson went through the middle to tackle him without the ball; this time? Evans missed again. Dropping the ball short of the posts.
With 20 minutes on the clock Quins seemed to have had a lot of possession for little reward. They looked certain to score as Mike Brown made a great run through with Charlie Walker on his shoulder; a pass would’ve seen the bright young winger score in the corner. Bizarrely the pass didn’t come, an unusual error by Brown. Quins continued to attack but gave a penalty away in the ruck allowing Steenson to clear the ball. Exeter had a good crack at attacking with Ewers again making a great run; he held the ball however losing the advantage gained. Harlequins’ second try came from a truly wonderful passage of play as initially Nick Easter, Dave Ward and Chris Robshaw combined to drive the ball forward; the ball went out to the backs who passed the ball the width of the pitch with Matt Hopper passing to Charlie Walker who ran in to score. The tackle made on Hopper as he passed the ball was reviewed at the request of the referee J P Doyle; Jack Knowle was adjudged to have raised Hopper above the horizontal and it was deemed to be a yellow card offence. I was hoping to see good things from Knowle but this was to prove to be the ‘highlight’ of his game. From an Exeter perspective that may have been an unfair yellow considering the earlier tackle from Hopper. Evans again missed his kick. 12 points for Quins didn’t feel a big return for the possession they’d had.
With 90 seconds on the clock and a man advantage Exeter won a lineout after Mike Brown had cleared the Quins line; the ball was turned over by the ‘home’ team as Dave Ward ripped the ball away. Danny Care ran through after picking the ball up and spotting some space. He raced towards the posts with Mike Brown on his shoulder; he provided a gift of a try for the full back who touched down under the posts. Nick Evans slotted the ball over the posts to see the teams run in with the scores at Quins 19 Exeter 3.
Now I’m going to do an unusual thing for a match report and say hardly anything about the second half. The dreaded Mexican Waves started with only 11 minutes of the half gone; so there was one question answered. And the rugby? Yep it was dull with a capital D; both teams scored a penalty – that’s about all I want to say! It will never cease to amaze me that die hard union fans tell me how boring rugby league is. In 18 years of watching the ‘other’ code I can honestly say I’ve never watched a game or half as boring as the odd half of union can be. I can only imagine the Worcester v Saracens scoreless second half was the same! My next live game involves a trip to Gloucester, a place I’ve never been to watch rugby, I’m hoping both teams play with intensity for the whole 80 minutes!