After the frustration of our defeat to Leicester Tigers last weekend we now face a massive game against London Irish at the Madejski Stadium this Sunday (4th April) if we are to achieve our aim of finishing in the top five of the Zurich Premiership.
We lost last Saturday because we made too many errors and as a result we were unable to sustain any real pressure on the Leicester defence. Because of our poor kicking from hand, we played the game in the wrong areas and then the mistakes we made allowed Leicester the opportunity to score. In the last 20 minutes of the game we were not accurate enough in the lineout, which again meant that we were not able to turn territorial position into sustained pressure.
This week we face a different set of challenges from London Irish, who like ourselves will have been disappointed to have lost two very close games, in their case against Bath.
On the injury front there is, as they say, some good news and some bad news. George Harder should be fit to start on Sunday and at the present time we also expect Paul Burke to be fit, although a final decision on Paul will be left until Saturday morning.
On the down side, Ace Tiatia damaged ankle ligaments last week against Leicester and could well be out for the remainder of this season, although he will be seeing the specialist later today. Jason Leonard does not have a fractured bone in his foot and again he will be seeing the consultant this week, but may only be out for just two to three weeks. Both Chris Bell and Karl Rudzki have minor knocks and are being rested both for Sunday's game and also for the final Zurich A group game against Bath at the Stoop on Monday evening (5th April).
In addition to the injuries, we have Will Greenwood returning from England Six Nations Championship duty and Pat Sanderson back from winning the Hong Kong Sevens with England for the third year running.
On Monday (29th March) the Second XV beat Bath 31-5 at the Recreation Ground to clinch the Southern Group of the inaugural Zurich A League with one game to go. We have agreed with Northampton, who we will face in the final, that we will play the first leg at home and the second leg away at Franklins Gardens, the dates of which are:
* Monday 12th April - NEC Harlequins XV Vs Northampton Saints, kick-off 7.30pm at the Stoop
* Tuesday 27th April - Northampton Saints Vs NEC Harlequins XV, kick-off 7.30pm at Franklins Gardens
The success of the Second XV this season, with the mix of First XV and Academy players, has shown that there is a solid foundation for the future of NEC Harlequins, and with Tony Russ and Collin Osborne continuing to bring further quality players through the Academy system we can expect more success in the future.
We need to win on Sunday at the Madejski - London Irish will be saying the same. It is a very important game for both teams as we look to get back into the top half of the Zurich Premiership table. As with nearly every Premiership game, the final result will be decided in the last ten minutes so your support for the team will be vitally important. We look forward to hearing it from minute one to minute 88!
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.