Much has happened since I spoke to you last. We got a thoroughly deserved two points up against Sale before Christmas, which with a modicum of luck may have been more, and then last Saturday afternoon we went down by a single point to Gloucester at Kingsholm.
The team's performance on Saturday could not be faulted. They played with commitment and skill in what were very difficult conditions, and although both teams made mistakes, in the conditions this was to be expected. Initial thoughts were that we lost a game we should have won because of one sliced kick which led to Gloucester second try. However, the benefit of hindsight, and watching the video, showed us that we had been extremely unlucky in a number of areas. For the fourth out of the last five Zurich Premiership games we appear to have got on the wrong end of a number of 50/50 refereeing decisions, and in close fought games such as this one, it does make all the difference. It is easy to blame the referee when you lose, we are not, but we are asking for some consistency in the decisions that the referee makes during a game.
There were areas of our game which might have been better, there always are. But our defence remains first class; we are causing teams all sorts of problems in the tackle area, tuning ball over which is leading to us creating scoring opportunities.
This Sunday we face Newcastle Falcons in what is a pivotal game in our season. Currently we are just five points behind London Irish who are currently in the coveted third place in the Zurich Premiership. This weekend they face Northampton who are fourth. Therefore if we are to continue to aim for a top three finish, which we are, then we must win on Sunday to maintain contact with the third placed team.
The news on the injury front is good. Having played Gloucester last weekend with eight potential first team players missing through injury, this week Mark Evans will have a severe headache when he comes to pick the twenty two to play this weekend. Fit and available for selection this weekend are Mike Worsley, Tani Fuga, Paul Burke, Mel Deane, Ugo Monye and George Harder, with only Ace Tiatia struggling with a knock after the Gloucester game. The team will be announced on Friday morning.
Of the long term injuries Simon Miall is progressing well, and may now be fit before the end of the season as had initially been thought. Simon's injury was unique to rugby, the only other sportsman to suffer a similar injury was triple jumper so the medical team have not had a lot of information to assist them with Simon's rehabilitation, but both they and Simon are confident that things are going well.
As many of you will know, Jim Evans was sent off for fighting with Chris Fortey (Gloucester) at the weekend. The disciplinary hearing will take place on Tuesday 6 January which means that Jim is available for selection for the game this weekend.
This Sunday is a huge game for NEC Harlequins, a Cup Final if you like, a game that the entire squad are looking forward to. It is challenges such as this that all professional sportsmen want to be a part of, and at the moment Sunday cannot come soon enough for NEC Harlequins.
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.