It is time for my weekly waffle again, although it has to be said it is a bit easier to write this week after our bonus point victory over Gloucester at the weekend!
This was a huge boost for everyone involved with NEC Harlequins; players, coaches, staff and supporters alike, and whilst it was good that the other results went our way that helped us to be elevated to the giddy height of 11th in the Zurich Premiership table, there are still seven very important games to go before this season is over.
There were a number of very crucial moments last Saturday afternoon. I am sure like me, your heart will have sunk around the 35th minute of the game when referee Ashley Rowden issued Ace Tiatia with a fully warranted red card. What was not so obvious at the time was that Ace had reacted to being hit across the face from behind.
This, the fact that Ace pleaded guilty to the charge of striking an opponent and his exemplary disciplinary record (he had never previously been sent off and although cited on three occasions, had been found innocent each time) resulted in him being banned for just two weeks at the RFU disciplinary hearing on Tuesday evening.
The other turning point of the game was the third try scored by Simon Keogh. Gloucester had just begun to get back into the game, they had dominated territory for almost the first time in the second half and had a clear overlap when Simon stepped into the line and ran 80 metres to score.
On the injury front, you will have seen that Tani Fuga is due to make a timely return to action against the Sharks this evening. George Harder is also expected to be fit for the Worcester game and Ugo Monye, who withdrew from the England A squad this week due to a back injury, is also expected to be able to take a full part in training next week.
Our physio team of Steph Brennan and Richard Bamford are working very hard at the moment, along with our fitness coaches Paul Pook and Dave Bell, to ensure that as many players as possible are available for our remaining fixtures. The fitness team this week has been ably assisted by Professor Juan Casajus, who works for the University of La Plata and is the fitness coach of Los Tilos rugby club, as well as being an advisor to the Argentinean national side.
After this evenings game against the Sharks, all our attention will turn to our Zurich Premiership game against Worcester next Saturday (19th February) at the Stoop, kick-off 2.00pm. Anyone who was at Worcester back in October will not need reminding what a poor performance we put in that day.
However, over the last three games against Munster, Leicester and last weekend against Gloucester, we have built some momentum in our much improved performances.
We will have to continue to build on this during the last remaining seven Zurich Premiership games.
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.