Last Sunday we qualified for the final of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup by, it must be said, the skin of our teeth. Connacht played very well in the second and third quarters of the game and when they took an aggregate lead of four points we were very much looking down the barrel.
However, in the last 20 minutes we were able to take control of the game again and despite some late pressure from Connacht deep into injury time, we made it through to the final. I have to say that the game itself was one of the most emotionally draining experiences I have ever been through. I would have been quite capable of going to sleep at about 3.30pm! But congratulations to all the players involved, who fought to ensure we have our day out in the final at Reading on 22nd May 2004.
A huge thanks also to the 500 or so travelling Quins supporters who, despite the non stop noise from the Connacht supporters, were able to make themselves heard and got right behind the team throughout the entire game. I am sure you all had a great weekend.
Having got back from Galway on Monday, Tuesday saw the Second XV travel up to Northampton to face the Saints in the second leg of the Zurich A Final. After 20 minutes the 13 point advantage we had taken with us was beginning to look a bit flimsy, but 41 unanswered points in the last hour of the game meant that we ran out decisive winners of the inaugural Zurich A Championship.
It was tremendous experience for all of our squad, but particularly for the likes of Mike Brown, Tom Muggridge, Mark Lambert, Cameron Dott, Duncan James and Marlow Warrington-Mattie, all of whom are in their first year with the academy.
On Tuesday afternoon we also had the appeal hearing for Tani Fuga's citing after the first leg of the Connacht game. This went very well, and we were delighted that the suspension was reduced from seven weeks to three that means that Tani will be available to play again with effect from 12th May 2004.
On the injury front, Jason Leonard has made some good improvement this week and there is every likelihood that he will be fit for the Northampton game on 8th May. With Roy Winters and Ace Tiatia out for the rest of the season, the rest of the squad is fit although there are one or two players who may have to face late fitness tests prior to Sunday's game against Bath.
With regards to the team for this Sunday, subject to late fitness tests, there are unlikely to be many changes from the team that played against Connacht last weekend. However, Bill Davison will start and he will be leading the team out with his two children who will be mascots for the day, in what could be his last ever game at the Stoop.
We are still looking to achieve fifth spot in the Zurich Premiership which will give us a home semi-final in the Wild Card play-offs (15th May). Nothing would give us greater pleasure than to qualify for the Wild Card Final and have to withdraw having won the Parker Pen Challenge Cup.
Bath are top of the Premiership, so will provide us with a huge challenge on Sunday but one that we are looking forward to with confidence.
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.