The first weekend of the season and there were some ‘interesting' results, although the one that concerned us most was a disappointing defeat to Gloucester.
Not disappointing in the way we played, indeed at times we played some very good rugby, with the backs looking very sharp. Our scrummage was strong and our lineout, with one notable exception, went well. The area where we let ourselves down was in the first-up tackling. The commitment could not be faulted as some of our scrambling defence was first class, but we did struggle to put the Gloucester ball carriers to the floor, which allowed them to play the ball away from contact and this caused us some difficulties. In addition to this, some missed tackles in the Premiership and you will lose.
However, we looked far more competitive than we did on occasions last season and we must now learn how to close out a game when you are a point up with just five minutes to go. As I said last week, and as the results at Sale, London Irish and the Stoop suggested, there are going to be an awful lot of games this season which will be won in the last five minutes and we must learn the skill of closing out these matches, as Leicester, our opponents this weekend, have done on so many occasions in recent years.
On Monday evening the Second XV played Saracens in the Stoop and managed to contrive a defeat from the jaws of victory. With a dominant scrum and the ability to cut them apart on occasions, a series of individual errors allowed Saracens the opportunity to take a decisive lead. There were good individual performances from Bill Satala in the centre, Luke Sherriff in the back row and Karl Rudzki in the second row. Next Monday (9th September) the 2nd XV are away to Northampton at Franklins Gardens, kick-off 7.30pm.
On Saturday we face the current Zurich Premiership Champions Leicester Tigers at Welford Road. Like ourselves, they will have been disappointed to have lost on the opening day of the season and will be looking to put this right in front of a packed house. We all know that they have a hugely talented squad, full of international players of the highest calibre including England and British Lions captain Martin Johnson.
We should not read much into their defeat against Leeds last weekend. They probably made more errors in that one game than they will in the rest of the season. But if we get our basics right and reduce our own error count then we have every chance of getting a result at Welford Road.
On the injury front, Alex Codling has failed to fully recover from the hamstring strain that caused him to leave the field last weekend and therefore Karl Rudzki will take his place alongside Bill Davison in the second row. With Keith Wood on international duty with Ireland, Ace Tiatia players at hooker and Luke Sherriff comes in to the back row.
Tani Fuga is now back in training and should be available for the London Irish game on 21st September and Nick Duncombe should be back in full training in the next few days.
We are all looking forward to going to Welford Road on Saturday and playing in front of a packed house - hopefully with many NEC Harlequins supporters in attendance. Look forward to seeing you there.
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.