After Sunday's win over Connacht in the first leg of the semi-final of the Parker Pen Challenge Cup, we will take a nine point advantage to Connacht for the second leg next weekend (25th April). We will face a tough challenge in Galway but are confident that we can win the away leg.
Having won last Sunday's game by four tries to one we might have expected a bigger lead than nine but a penalty count of 17-11 against us tells its own story. Much has been made of the referee's performance; some justified comments, some not. Of the 17 penalties awarded against us, 11 were correct in terms of the way he interpreted the tackle area and this was an area that we had to adapt to.
However, there were six penalties given against us, three of which led directly to Connacht scores, where he simply made the wrong decision. Having said that, Connacht will be justifiably aggrieved that he also made some mistakes in awarding penalties against them; so it was swings and roundabouts to a certain extent.
Tomorrow night (16th April) we return to action in the Zurich Premiership when we face Rotherham Titans at the Stoop, kick-off 7.45pm. This, as usual, is an important game for both clubs. We are looking to maintain our position in the top half of the table with the aim of finishing fifth as our goal. Rotherham are still looking for their first win of the season, but their performances in games since the turn of the year have been much improved. They have given one or two teams a very tough time, including London Wasps back in February.
I have seen there has been much talk of this being a five point win for us. Well no team in the Premiership has achieved that against Rotherham for a long while and our sole intention will be to get the victory and the four points that will give us, but it will not be easy. Just ask Gloucester, who a few weeks ago were 19-0 down to Rotherham before claiming a win.
On the injury front, Jason Leonard is still out due to his foot injury and we are without Ace Tiatia for the remainder of the season. Pat Sanderson has still not fully recovered from the shoulder injury he aggravated against London Irish and Mel Deane has not fully recovered from the knock he took to the back last week against Connacht, so his place in the starting line-up is to be taken by Chris Bell.
On the subject of Chris, there have been some ill informed comments with regards to his decision to move to Leeds Tykes. Of course we wanted him to stay at Quins; we had offered him a new two-year contract some time ago. Mark Evans signed him as an 18 year-old straight out of school and he has been a regular first team member ever since. Chris has made the decision that he wants a change of environment; we are very disappointed that he has made that decision but he has every right to do so.
Following the Connacht game last weekend, our hooker Tani Fuga has been cited for an alleged stamping incident on one of their players. Although not confirmed yet, the hearing is likely to take place in Dublin next Tuesday evening.
On Monday (12th April) our Second XV put in a tremendous performance against Northampton in the first leg of the Zurich A Final to lead 28-15 at the halfway stage in the tie. It was a fantastic game of rugby, perhaps just a shame that not more people came along to the Stoop to watch.
With just three games to go in the Zurich Premiership, Friday's game against Rotherham is vital to us. It will be hard fought, physical and as with most Premiership games these days will probably be won and lost in the last ten minutes. I hope that as many Quins supporters as possible will come along to the Stoop for what is sure to be another tremendous evenings entertainment.
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.