After the disappointment of our performance against London Irish in week one of the season, the omens were good 15 minutes into last Saturday's (11th September) Zurich Premiership game against Northampton Saints. We were 5-3 in front and were playing well; looking after the ball in attack and knocking back the Saints players in defence. 25 minutes later we were 29-8 down and completely out of the game.
What happened? Well this is not the place to point the finger at individuals, but for the four tries we conceded in the first half each of them were caused by individual errors, with players not following our defensive systems and thereby leaving holes for the Northampton Saints team to attack.
These were not new systems, but systems that we have used for some time. Why did this happen? Well individual errors happen in every game, the players do not make them deliberately, but they do happen. Some of these errors occurred when players were trying to help their team-mates and then did not fulfil their own role leaving us short in other areas.
Of course everyone was disappointed. We let ourselves down and we let you, our supporters, down. As I said earlier, the players do not go out and deliberately make errors and we know that they can play much better than last Saturday. Those of us with longer memories can recall games last season against Bath, Montferrand and Newcastle where the true spirit and ability of this squad was there for everyone to see.
We have not become a poor team 'overnight' but our two performances to date have been far from satisfactory. Last season we were the only team in the Zurich Premiership not to concede four tries in a league game. It was a record we were proud of and we now have to re-build.
This weekend (Sunday 19th September) we travel to Newcastle for what is always a difficult challenge at Kingston Park. Clearly we have had a lot to work on this week; the analysis machine has been buzzing, both looking at last Saturday and looking ahead to our opposition this Sunday. The game cannot come quick enough for everyone, it is a challenge that we are all looking forward to.
On the recruitment front, I am delighted that at long last we are able to announce the signing of Matt Henjak; the 22 year-old scrum half who plays for the ACT Brumbies and has won two caps for Australia. Matt has signed a short-term contract and will join us after completing his duties with Canberra, who are currently in the play-offs of the Tooheys Cup in Australia. As we have said all along, we are also looking for a further forward to add to the squad, but it takes time to find the right person and we will have to be patient.
The team for Sunday's encounter will be announced tomorrow (Friday) while we wait on a couple of players facing fitness tests, though Mel Deane will not be involved. Mel strained his medial ligaments against Northampton and will be out of action for up to six weeks. He will be replaced by Andy Reay, who has continued to perform well for the Second XV in the Zurich A League.
On a lighter note, I am delighted to confirm that my clipboard remains in one piece after receiving a bit of a battering after last Saturday's game, and will be travelling to Newcastle with all the replacement cards, Zurich Premiership regulations and player registration sheets that it contains.
Confidence is a brittle thing in professional sport. Two loses at the beginning of a new season are not what any of us wanted or expected. Having said that, we have a good squad with good players and it is up to us to put in a performance to match.
To those of you travelling to Newcastle, I look forward to seeing you there.
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.