With several experienced players removed from the team that played Cambridge's equivalent side the week before on account of a reserves fixture next Tuesday, and given last weeks comfortable victory, one felt the right approach would be necessary to tame a what appeared to be an organised and committed Oxford side. Although the opening moments of the match went some way to suggest this was lacking, as an intelligent Oxford kick off caught Quins unawares and meant Oxford successfully retrieved possession. Oxford then proceeded to utilise this possession to full effect by stringing together several phases which forced the under pressure Quins to get penalised right in front of their own posts. Oxford made no mistake in scoring the first points of the afternoon by slotting this penalty through the uprights after just 3 minutes.<br /> An immediate response was required and was provided when from the resulting restart good defensive pressure from the Quins backs forced an Oxford mistake deep in their own territory. A good resulting scrummage provided a good platform for Quins to mount an attack on the Oxford line. Initially the Blues held out, but only until Quins scrum-half Max Evans made a sneaky dart at the side of a ruck to score under the posts. The resulting conversion and a penalty just minutes later by out-half Brendan Leask, took the Quins into a useful lead of 10-3.<br /> The following ten minutes saw numerous handling errors and poor decision making by the Quins players, which allowed Oxford considerable time on the ball in Quins territory. However, the defensive play was more clinical, keeping Oxford out and eventually getting Quins out of the danger zone. The true potential of the young Harlequins was shown after 25 minutes, when good back play culminated in a perfectly timed pass by inside centre Henry Barratt to unleash his fellow centre Tom Allen out wide who showed good speed to finish off the move.<br /> The next ten minutes were to be less entertaining as once more crucial mistakes at vital times were costing Quins as well as the way no more then a 1 or 2 phases were being strung together because of a lack of ball carriers. The situation wasn't to be helped by a referee who was overly keen in intervening at every available opportunity, sometimes when nothing that even resembled an infringement had actually occurred e.g. calling a knock on from a kick charge down.<br /> My sanity was partially restored after 35 minutes when an impressive break of some 60 yards by Barratt allowed the supporting Chris Cracknell to score, which was then also converted by Leask.<br /> The momentum was not wasted this time as with previous scores and Harlequins went straight back on the offensive. Good ball carrying and retention from the Quins pack took the side deeper into Oxford territory. Then several quick passes wide allowed time for centre Allen to run an arc through the Oxford three-quarters to score his second just before half time. <br />Although, before the piercing sound of the referees whistle to signal half-time sounded,the spectators at Iffley road were subject to calls of 'come on sausage!' from the terraces, no doubt in reference to Quins prop forward Ohmeed Martini who was a having a successful afternoon in the scrum and in the loose. When the referee's whistle finally came the scoreboard read Oxford 3, Quins 29.<br /> The start of the second half was an unfortunately dull affair as it was very scrappy and lacked flow. There were perhaps to many Quins players taking the ball into contact and not utilising it when perhaps they should, allowing Oxford sufficient time to react.<br /> Things came back to life 16 minutes in when Quins replacement flanker Jack Woolhough showed considerable ingenuity to dummy the Oxford players to score. <br /> The game then fell back into the coma it was in before with both sides showing little to resemble direction and cohesion. In all fairness to the Oxford players this period of the game was largely played in the Harlequins 22 and it took some committed defence from Quins to keep them out, a notable try saving tackle from replacement back Toby Brown. Just as an Oxford score was seeming increasingly likely, fullback Tom Williams showed noteworthy individual skill when he effortlessly picked up the ball single handedly and went the length of the field to score.<br /> This, however, was only a temporary departure from the Harlequins 22, as Oxford seemed determined to make their efforts count with a try. This deservedly came on the stroke of full time when Oxford blindside flanker Abbott went over from an effective driving lineout. Making the final score, 41-10 to Harlequins.<br /> Promising displays from hooker Steve Wood and prop Martini were a plus as well as a sound performance by Outside half Brendan Leask making his first start in that position, however, the challenge Leicester will pose next week will be somewhat more than what this committed Oxford team offered. Meaning Quins will have to be on top of their game in order to beat the u-21 champions.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.