After the first leg of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup we are 31 -18 up on the Spanish champions Cetransa El Salvador, whom we face again this Saturday afternoon in front of an almost sell out crowd at The Stoop.
Our performance against Cetransa last weekend was a mixed bag. In the first half we dominated play, and despite some less than sympathetic refereeing we went in at half time 19 - 3 up, with the forwards particularly, playing very well. However, in the first fifteen minutes of the second half we turned the ball over far too easily, and presented our opposition with some very easy scoring opportunities which they took. Half way through the second half we found ourselves in a very uncomfortable 19 -18 lead, and under pressure following the sin binning of Bill Davison. However, in the last twenty minutes of the game, we got ourselves back on top and came away with a win to take into the second leg.
Obviously we still need to finish the job on Saturday, but there is no denying that we will now be waiting to see the results in the other games this weekend to see who we may be facing in the second round of the competition in January. What we do know is that we will be away over the weekend of 10/11 January and at home on Saturday 17 January 2004. ERC are expected to announce which of the lucky losers we face sometime on Monday.
In terms of the team selection, obviously the most important news is the return from injury of George Harder. It will be could to see him back in action again, particularly with the three massive away games we have coming up in the Zurich Premiership against Sale (19 December), Gloucester (27 December) and Newcastle (4 January). On a sadder note Josh Taumalolo picked up a knock to his knee last weekend, and this may be more serious than we first thought. Josh has been for a scan on the injury and we are currently waiting for the report on this scan before a full diagnosis can be made.
Of the other injury news Mike Worsley is progressing well and hopefully he will be available to take some part in our second XV game away to Gloucester on Monday evening. Paul Burke is recovering slowly from the injury he picked up against Bath, and we will have to wait and see if he will be fit in time for the Sale game next Friday evening.
With the Webb Ellis Trophy making an appearance at The Stoop this Saturday, we are all looking forward to welcoming Cetransa to Twickenham, and hopefully returning some of the generous hospitality they offered both the team and our traveling support last weekend. Speaking of which, the support the team received in Valladolid last Sunday was absolutely fantastic, and as many of you will have seen, the supporters were voted man of the match by John Kingston. A repeat performance is needed from the supporters, and an improved performance is required by the team.
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.