On the weekend my team Saracens are heading to Belfast for their Heineken Cup quarter final against Ulster I find myself in possession of a Eurostar ticket for Paris. I rushed home after the group rounds to look at flights to Belfast, but decided to take the adult decision to go and see my lovely daughter across the British Channel – well, under it in this case! The first thing I did once I’d made the right decision is check out likely fixtures, spotting the fact that Quins were drawn against Stade Francais in the Amlin Cup Quarter final! Sky scheduling however meant I couldn’t get there in time, so no live sport to watch! One of maybe 3 weekends a year where that’s the case for me, I am making up for it next weekend however with 8 straight days of sport, weather allowing, now the cricket season’s nearly here and the rugby league and union seasons overlap.
So no live sport fix, but I am going to get my InTheLoose fix albeit watching the game on the TV. Expect rants about the commentators therefore! Morne Steyn South African superstar kicked the game off and we had an early scrum, which seemed to collapse dramatically, play however continued with a Stade attack. The ball was knocked on by Mike Brown and another scrum gave an attacking platform to Stade, they in turn knock on but the referee took play back for a penalty. Steyn missed the chance to put his team ahead. With 11 minutes of the game gone it appeared that the Quins players were playing in the wrong studs for the surface as each of the back 3 had slipped over.
Nick Evans was next to have a kick at the posts after a concerted spell of attack, he was successful to put Quins ahead by 3 points. Luke Wallace one of my favourite players this season was penalised for a high tackle, this time Steyn put the ball between the posts from about 38 metres out. Quins won the ball from the kick off, but wasted a good attacking opportunity as Nick Easter went straight off his feet; Steyn however missed touch! Stade were penalised next after Lyons held the ball in the tackle, Nick Evans scored the 3 points. Quins had a very promising attack on 27 minutes after Sam Smith and Ollie Lindsay-Hague combined in the middle of the field, Chris Robshaw knocked the ball on. The video ref came into play as an allegation of gouging by Joe Marler was checked; the video showed nothing clear and obvious, in spite of that the referee had a word with Marler, rather random as nothing was seen! A no arm tackle was also checked but again not proven; a very long wait for the players. It’ll be interesting to see if the gouge is looked at again.
Morrne Steyn evened the score again after a very niggly spell of play. To go to a live mode of writing I can see the game deteriorating into a major case of handbags! Stade had the best try scoring opportunity of the first half as Camara fairly flew down the wing, a very poor pass ensured a knock on in the centre however. Another error by Stade gave Nick Evans a chance to score on 41 minutes; he kicked the penalty and sent his team in at half time in the lead by 3 points. A very scrappy and bad tempered first half against 2 teams with a lot of history, both dressing rooms would have been interesting places; I sincerely hope someone had a word in Joe Marler’s shell like!
The second half started with a knock on by Danny Care who just stood and watched as the big Stade prop ran down the field, Robshaw held a player back giving Steyn another shot at goal; again he missed. Dave Ward had a moment of madness as he seemed to drop the ball to the floor, knocking on. Quins won a penalty from the resulting penalty and those handbags came out very early in the half as the forwars became better acquainted. Now, I have to make a confession, I did the shouting out loud and clapping thing when Mike Brown went over the line to score. The forwards, in particular Nick Easter, having a great season had progressed up the speed with speed and skill. The TMO was again called into play as there had been a couple of pushes basically by George Robson in the first place, all something and nothing! The crowd had a good go at booing Evans as he kicked the conversion, taking the score to Stade 6 Quins 16.
Stade had a great attack from a lineout as Bosman (this may well be spelt wrong! L) ran through, Camara was in a whole world of space but the pass was poor and the ball was knocked on yet again, much to the wingers frustration as he kicked the ball into the stands just missing the touch judge. Ollie Lindsay-Hague showed his 7’s credentials in Quins best move of the half jinking through the attackers, the ball passed to Danny Care who put a neat kick through, Camara was tackled behind the line forcing a 5m scrum. Nick Evans backed himself and went close, but to no avail, Stade were lucky not to lose a player for 10 minutes as Daguin failed to roll away. 3 more points for Nick Evans and Quins was the result.
Mike Brown made an unusual error after Dave Ward had hooked the ball in the scrum; kicking the ball straight out; Nick Easter saved the day however by stealing the lineout. Stuart Barnes on 61 minutes mentioned little errors creeping in for Stade, for me both teams had been making errors all the way through the game! With 14 minutes remaining Stade were awarded a penalty, with a gap of 13 points they decided to kick, Vincent Mallet missed, making that a poor decision. Again Stade surged forward in attack, the result wasn’t a knock on this time, it was instead a pass from Daguin straight into Nick Evans hands. Evans kicked on and he stormed up the field but was beaten to the ball by David Lyons, to me it looked as if he didn’t release the ball, but that wasn’t the decision of the officials. Again we had a stoppage for the TMO as a tackle by Mike Brown was checked, it did look a fraction late but pretty innocuous, a penalty was awarded right the way back near the Quins line. This time Stade kicked the ball off for a lineout, Quins won the ball, but Robshaw took the ball over the line. Stade won their scrum then a penalty which was taken quickly, Jordan Turner Hall intercepted a pass allowing Quins to clear their lines winning a penalty themselves.
Nick Evans put his team further ahead with a fine drop goal, bringing back memories of a very rainy day at the Stoop when he won the game for his team after the 80 minutes were up. Tim Molenaar scored a strong try in the corner after a great pass by Easter and a well-timed pass by Lindsay-Hague; Ben Botica on to replace Evans added the 3 points with a difficult conversion. To be fair to Stade, with the win totally out of reach they carried on attacking but again knocked on. The final whistle was blown with the scores on Stade Francais 6 Harlequins 29; one French team beaten, personally I’m hoping we see more of that this weekend!