There is no use pretending that we were not hugely disappointed to come away from London Wasps on Sunday (22nd February) with nothing more than a single bonus point. For the majority of the second half we lead by six points and to lose the game with the last kick of the match was very frustrating.
It is true that parts of our game were not executed very well. Our kicking from hand was poor, leaving the ball on the pitch far too often for the Wasps players to run back at us, and maintain the huge pressure that built-up during the second half. Having said that, it is very unusual in the modern game to play for 65 minutes without being awarded a single penalty.
We were awarded just two during the entire 92 minutes of play, the second one in the 23rd minute of the first half. Without a penalty kick it meant that every time we did clear our lines it was a Wasps lineout around half-way and they were able to reorganize and start their attacks again. Particularly in the second half it meant that we were unable to gain any territorial advantage and therefore maintain any pressure on Wasps in their own half of the pitch.
Our defence was outstanding for 99% of the game. The forwards made in the region of 130 tackles, the backs something like 70. Yes there were a few missed, one very costly, but not many!
Whatever we think about the game on Sunday, it has gone and there is nothing we can do to change that so we must look forward, and look to build on our target of qualifying for next seasons Heineken Cup. Until Sunday, finishing in the top three was a realistic goal. It is still not impossible, just very difficult.
On Monday evening, my faith in the game of rugby returned when our Second XV beat London Irish 29-28 in a thrilling game at Sunbury. It was a great game, yes there were mistakes but this was a result of the huge pressure both teams put on the opposition. That win has moved the Second XV up to second in our conference, just three points behind Irish with a game in hand. The remaining Zurich A league games are:
- Tuesday 9th March Vs Gloucester, The Stoop, kick-off 7.30pm
- Monday 16th March Vs London Wasps, Rosslyn Park, kick-off 7.30pm
- Monday 29th March Vs Bath, The Recreation Ground, kick-off 7.30pm
- Monday 5th April Vs Bath, The Stoop, kick-off 7.30pm
Next Wednesday (3rd March), the Second XV take on the Army at Aldershot in what is sure to be another lively fixture, kick-off 7.30pm.
On the injury front, both Jim Evans and Paul Burke should be in full training when the squad returns from their break next Thursday. There were plenty of battered and bruised bodies after Sunday's game, but at this stage nothing that looked too serious.
It is a long time before we take on Leicester Tigers at Welford Road on 19th March, a long while to brood on last weekend's defeat. However, we have some fine players in this squad, a squad that week in, week out have shown a huge commitment to the cause in the way that they have battled for each other and for the team. We have some big games coming up in March and April, and if we are to achieve our aim for this season then there is still a lot of hard work to be done.
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.