Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and accept that you have been beaten by a better side. Last Saturday evening in Paris we came close, particularly in the first half, to beating a very strong Stade Francais team, but the strange bounce of the odd shaped ball that we play with went against us and Stade got a deserved victory. We wish Nick Mallet and his team all the very best in the remainder of the competition, particularly Peter De Villiers who treated us all so well in his bar on Saturday night!
This weekend we face Leeds Tykes at the Stoop, kick-off 3pm, in the Powergen Cup 6th Round. This is an opportunity for revenge for us; having lost to Leeds in the Zurich Premiership at home back in September in what was a poor performance. We cannot duck the issue; a win on Saturday is essential to NEC Harlequins, not least because if we fail we could be without a competitive game for the last three weeks of January, unless Bristol also fail to proceed in the competition. Like every other team, the opportunity to play at Twickenham in April in front of a packed house is something we would all wish to be a part of.
Someone told me over the weekend that Quins are destined to do well in the cup! Well I dare say that Leeds will be thinking exactly the same. They have performed extremely well this season and under the guidance of Phil Davies have positioned themselves well in the top half of the Premiership table. In Gordon Ross at fly half and Braam van Straaten at inside centre, they have two players very capable of dictating any game. In the pack they also have some excellent players such as Tom Palmer, Gavin Kerr and Dan Hyde.
On the injury front, things are definitely looking up. This weekend should see Nick Duncombe, Alex Codling and Will Greenwood all return to the starting XV; while Ben Gollings has returned from international sevens duty in one piece! In addition, Andre Vos is also available after missing the last two weeks Parker Pen Challenge Cup action due to registration regulations. With Pat Sanderson coming through the 80 minutes well last Saturday, it should leave Mark Evans an interesting selection conundrum in the back row for this weekend! Keith Wood has also been in full training, as has Dan Luger.
It was tremendous to see so many Quins fans out in Paris last Saturday. Over 400 people were at the game on Saturday evening and the support you gave the team would have put the early morning shrill of the cockerel to shame. It was greatly appreciated by everyone involved with the team, so a huge thank you to you all.
With the festive season fast approaching and many people already planning their Christmas Dinners for next Wednesday, it is important that we focus on producing a performance on Saturday afternoon that will send us all away in good cheer. Although the aim is to play at Twickenham in the final on 5th April, to coin an old clichÃˆ, we must take it one game at a time. Leeds will be a difficult nut to crack on Saturday and we will need to perform at our best if we are to be in the draw for the next round on Monday morning.
Look forward to seeing you all at the Stoop on Saturday - it is a far better option than Christmas shopping!
Finally, may I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all the players and coaching staff at NEC Harlequins.
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.