Harlequins v Scarlets AWC
By Bedfordshire Boy
February 2 2018

So here we go again, the good old Anglo Welsh Cup, at least we have more interest in it this year battling it out with Exeter Chiefs at the top of pool 2 and everything to play for. Our visitors today from The Principality are Scarlets who have lost their opening two games of the competition so it would be somewhat of a surprise if Quins were to lose this one, but if they play an expansive game like their senior side, I would anticipate a good open and running match. 

That optimism was matched by my prediction league scoreline of 35 – 23 to Quins but I was having second thoughts getting to the ground to see the wet, windy and slippery conditions. Really like the look of the Quins side, especially the backline with long overdue starts for both Aaron Morris and Joe Marchant, two speedsters on the wings in Ross Chisholm and Gabriel Ibtoye and the ever improving James Lang at ten. Joe Gray and Luke Wallace feature in the forwards with captain for the day James Chisholm at eight.

Botica, Jacob not Ben, gets the game underway with Quins playing in to the wind and following a bit of ping pong, Scarlets are awarded a penalty 40 metres out in front of the posts with 5 minutes on the clock. A bit of an exaggeration but I think the ball ended up closer to the corner flag than the posts! The restart kick from Lang eventually leads to a penalty with Scarlets being offside which allows Lang to find touch around the halfway mark. Quins make headway into the Scarlets half from the line out before a long kick to the right wing from Lang finds Luke Wallace who unfortunately cannot hold onto the ball as he knocks the ball forward. As time goes on Quins are definitely in the ascendancy as Scarlets are finding it difficult to get out of their own half of the field, the most worrying thing is that there is nothing on the scoreboard for their efforts. One thing that certainly cheered the home crowd though was a 15 metre rolling maul leading to another penalty to Quins which was once again kicked deep into the Scarlets half.

The persistent pressure from Quins eventually pays dividends when having been camped on the Scarlets line, a scrum results in the ball getting out to Henry Cheeseman who runs a good lie to score under the posts. Lang adds two extra points, Quins 7 Scarlets after 21 minutes. Scarlets manage to secure the ball from the restart but can only seem to get the ball any distance into the Quins half by kicking whereas Quins now look dangerous on the attack whenever they have the ball. Sarlets are warned for repeated infringements and are soon defending another Quins line out 5 metres from the Scarlets line. Following more pressure Quins are eventually rewarded with their second try of the afternoon when Dave Lewis nips in for a score which is once again converted by James Lang from a more difficult position. Quins fourteen points ahead 12 minutes from half time. Plenty of endeavour from both sides for the remainder of the first half with possession switching frequently with the highlight being a crunching tackle by James Chisholm which I am sure could be heard all over the stadium. A very good all round performance by Quins with their defense giving the Scarlets no room at all; I would hazard a guess that 95% of the half took place inside the Scarlets end of the pitch.

Not much change early in the second half as play is restricted to within 10 metres of the Scarlets line with repeated penalties, line out, catch and drive sequences eventually leading to the third try of the afternoon following another warning to Scarlets for repeated infringements. This time it is Archie White who touches down, and with Lang once again successful with the conversion, the scoreboard shows Quins 21 Scarlets 0 after 47 minutes.

 Referee Williams signals Quins fourth try

From the restart some play inside the Quins half but mostly restricted to within 10 metres of the halfway line until Quins infringe allowing Scarlets to kick into the Quins twenty two. Quins knock on at the line out and before the scrum can be taken McNulty replaces Swainston for Quins and Griffiths and Sebastian replace Williams and Gardiner for Scarlets on 51 minutes. Scarlets press the Quins line but then some phenomenal defensive play sees Scarlets pushed further and further back with each recycled ball until they end up on the halfway line. With Scarlets running out of ideas they attempt to kick for territory, the kick is charged down and hacked on and Henry Cheeseman almost scores his second try of the match but cannot gather the ball and knocks on the ball 5 metres from the Scarlets line.

Scarlets win the ball from the scrum but as they are still being pressurised by Quins, they can only scramble the ball into touch. Quins continue to attack the Scarlets line and from one metre out Lewis gets the ball to James Chisholm whose pass to James Lang allows him to shake off one tackle to score giving Quins the try bonus point. A straightforward conversion by Lang, Quins 28 Scarlets 0 as we approach the last quarter of the game. Before the restart Dino Lamb replaces James Chisholm and Stan South is replaced by Sam Twomey, his first game for over a year. Quins continue to snuff out any Scarlets attacks and Quins are awarded a penalty for a high tackle on halfway allowing Lang to put in one of his massive kicks into the Scarlets twenty two. More changes for Quins, Charlie Piper and Jonno Kitto replacing Joe Gray and Dave Lewis and Maynard replacing Botica for the visitors.

Although the Quins defense continues to impress there are signs that Scarlets are slowly getting into the game as Quins are warned about the number of infringements as we enter the last 10 minutes after two more change for Quins, Holtestein and Coyle on, Lambert and Marchant off. Scarlets continue to press and are finally rewarded when Morgan crashes over the line from 5 metres out. A successful conversion by Maynard and the score is Quins 28 Scarlets 7 with six minutes to go. Quins are penalised from the restart for players being in front of the kicker resulting in a scrum to Scarlets. A harsh decision in my view, do players remain behind the kicker for any restart in the modern game? Scarlets retain the ball from their scrum and are playing with a bit more confidence but lose the ball in the tackle allowing Kitto to break and set Ross Chisholm free to run in to score from the halfway line. With less than two minutes to go James Lang is successful with his fifth conversion of the afternoon so the final score is Quins 35 Scarlets 7.

 Quins fifth try of the day

 All told a good days work for Quins with a massive defensive display as well as running in five trys. If that wasn`t enough the result from Worcester was announced letting us know that Exeter were sent on their travels without any points from their match. This means that Quins are now in prime position to win pool 2 needing just a single point from their last pool stage game. Although we shouldn`t get carried away, as the opposition were hardly the strongest to visit The Stoop, there does seem to be signs of a week by week improvement in consistency within the squad. Also really pleasing to see so many of the younger players stepping up to the mark, really looking forward to seeing Marcus Smith and James Lang playing together in the future. Should also note that Cadan Murley, an ex pupil of my old school,  replaced Aaron Morris for the final 15 minutes of the match. Amusing incident of the afternoon was the apparent “chant off” in the north west corner of the stadium late in the game.

So, all to play for next week, and probably more important than progress in the Anglo Welsh Cup, is to continue progress and hope that we haven`t witnessed yet another false dawn.