I must admit that after all the comments aimed at me after last weeks piece, in which I quoted a few statistics about the ball we had won from scrums during this season, I have been looking forward to the right of reply. In answer to the most common points raised:
a) The percentage range of scrummages won by all Zurich Premiership teams was between 82% and 93%, at the time of writing
b) No - of course this does not give any indication of the quality of ball won. That is a subjective judgment, and can only be answered if you know what call has been made and therefore what the team (any team) is attempting to do with the ball
c) The point I was making, clearly not very well, is that we have a good scrummage, not the best in the league but a good scrummage, and this does not change after one poor game against Worcester
Going back to last Saturday, they were four very important points that we won against Bath at the Recreation Ground. You can argue tooth and nail about the rights and wrongs of playing Zurich Premiership games during the Six Nations but this is what the clubs agreed, and I do not see Northampton or Worcester apologising for their wins last weekend!
The difference between the two halves, as much as anything else, was the penalty count. In the first half we conceded nine penalties, six of which were probably caused by players being anxious, trying too hard or going for balls in the tackle area when they should not have done; while in the second half we conceded just three. This meant that after half-time, we controlled territory to the point where Bath failed to get into our twenty-two despite having the benefit of the wind.
Having gone in at the break 15-3 down, having let in two soft tries, we were clearly in a huge amount of trouble, though the character that the team showed in the second half was tremendous. There were very good individual performances from Nick Easter, Andre Vos and Steve So'oialo, who completely controlled the game in the second half which enabled us to win the territorial battle so comprehensively.
Disappointingly, our finishing was not as good as we would have liked. We created six try scoring opportunities and took only two of them, one of which was gifted to us by Bath. Looking at the games ahead of us, this is an area that we need to improve upon.
In terms of the Zurich Premiership table, we are now four points clear of Leeds who are in 12th position, while at the same time being only 12 points behind Gloucester who are in fourth. The point I am making is that it shows just what a very tight league it is we play in; the margins are very small.
One or two close fought wins make a hell of a difference at the end of the season, as do one or two mistakes that cost you games during the campaign. Every team will look back at matches that they could / should have won and at what difference that they may have made to their season. 'If only' are sadly two of the most useless words in sport!
On the injury front, both Will Greenwood and Andy Dunne are continuing their re-habilitation programmes and are on course to return to action at the end of this month. Ugo Monye and Tom Williams have recovered from the knocks to the head that they took at the weekend and have been training with the squad this week, which included a session with the London Broncos on Tuesday afternoon at their training ground in Heston, which both sets of players thoroughly enjoyed.
There were a few other knocks and bruises, but with this weekend off I am sure that everyone will be fit and raring to go by the time we face Newcastle Falcons at the Stoop next Sunday (13th March), kick-off 2.00pm.
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.