The Falcons inched closer to Wasps after drawing with Harlequins last night in an eventful and at times brutal clash at Kingston Park. The league leaders struggled with our tough approach but a last-gasp penalty by Nick Evans secured the Londoners a share of the spoils.
Quins manager Conor O'Shea, who marched on the pitch at half-time to have a go at the officials, was less than complimentary about our style of play while many of our visitors' supporters have also expressed their displeasure and hopes that we will be relegated. How times change.
But more of that later. The Falcons were dealt a blow before the game with Euan Murray pulling out due to injury while Grant Shiells was only fit enough for the bench, Jon Golding starting his first league game of the season. Adam Balding and James Goode were also replacements as Adriaan Fondse returned from suspension and Taiasina Tu'ifua got a start.
Harlequins went ahead early on through a penalty by Nick Evans but Jimmy Gopperth equalised. The quintessential yellow card for the Falcons came just after the quarter hour when it looked like Chris Pilgrim was blocked from making a tackle, but referee Andrew Small decided that he had actually taken out a runner.
While Pilgrim was off away hooker Chris Brooker was stretchered off with what was apparently a hyper-extended knee, and hopefully he will be back soon from his painful-looking injury. James Hall needed temporarily replacing for a cut to the head and former Falcon Pete Browne came on for Ollie Kohn.
The first half was attritional and ended 3-3, but it had been intriguing and thoroughly enjoyable. There might have been more points but for both Kiwi kickers hitting posts and knocking penalties wide. Who says a gritty forward battle can't be entertaining?
Already voices were getting hoarse too.
Evans again put Quins into the lead with a penalty after the restart, Gopperth again equalising. The referee was really starting to come into his own with some quite baffling decisions, giving Quins a scrum for their knock-on before quickly realising his error.
Balding, Goode and the returning Alex Tait were all thrown on by Gary Gold and Ashley Wells replaced Hall permanently, probably not a bad move since the Falcons' scrum was going backwards anyway.
One decision we were grateful for though was a penalty on our five-metre line after a sustained period of Quins pressure. Throughout the move I couldn't help thinking that it could be a pivotal moment in our season. Winning the penalty should have given us a massive confidence boost.
Gopperth missed what looked like a good penalty, though then again it was at the South end and from the Irish game we know that touch judges sometimes just guess down there.
Rob Vickers, on his 100th appearance for the Falcons, was sent to the sin-bin with 11 minutes to go for a punch, although it looked to me like the referee didn't do anything until a Harlequin steamed through to try to exact some retribution. Unlike in Golding's case two weeks ago, retaliation went unpunished on this occasion. If I saw it right of course.
But soon the Falcons got a penalty right in front of the posts, and Gopperth despatched it with ease. Eight minutes to go, 9-6. Keep your head, keep calm and don't do anything stupid!
The Falcons drove and defended valiantly, until with the seconds slipping away, Quins won a scrum on their far right. As our forwards pedalled backwards a penalty was awarded and Evans broke Geordie hearts by sending it through the posts.
The initial mood was one of despair, that we had lost two points at the death. But then again the Falcons can be proud of how they fronted up to a team that did not look like potential title-winners. Although I hope that is what Harlequins become in May.
We won't know until this afternoon whether or not this draw was a good result, but I'm sure that come 3pm this afternoon we will all be feeling a little bit Irish.
I was a little surprised by the reaction of many Harlequins' fans to last night's game, especially those wishing for us to be relegated. Those of you who have read this site for many years may remember that back in 2005 I wrote that I wanted Quins to go down over the other relegation candidates of the time.
You'd think I'd shot their mothers, the way many of their fans condemned me for my comments that were apparently not in the spirit of rugby. One saw no hypocrisy in stating that I should not wish ill on another team, while also saying he didn't care who went down as long as it wasn't Quins.
I suppose what goes around comes around.
But last night showed that we are not licked yet. That was a very hard game but we came out of it with two points and now have three weeks for Gold, Wells, Ford etc. to sort out our terrible discipline that is yielding penalties and yellow cards aplenty each game over the past few weeks.
A fair summing up Leipy. It was a game of attrition due to total loss of control by the refree, and I am not usually one to criticise refrees. Early in the first half I predicted the game would turn dirty if the ref didn't at least try to control the game, and so it turned out. In those circumstances we can be thankful for the two points.
Yet again discipline cost us dear, a quarter of the game played with a team of 14 is becoming habit & it needs to be sorted out. Other teams play even more cynically but don't get caught, if we can't match that then discipline has to be good.
First opportunity I’ve had to comment on Friday’s game, probably a good idea, so incensed was I over yet more cards. Regardless of whether we concede points while the miscreants warm the bench, it changes the dynamic of the team and is just as likely to prevent us from scoring points as conceding. I hope there is serious reflection by the players if we are relegated by a few points as they can be directly attributable to our inexcusable lack of self-control in giving penalties/points away as well as attracting disciplinary cards. I feel so strongly about this that the club should consider the ultimate sanction, when players are knocking on the door asking for contract renewals, to cut them loose.
I didn’t expect us to retain the services of all our players for the full 80 minutes and so it proved. What was not entirely expected was the physicality and ferocity shown by our players in taking the opposition on with our desire to win the ball and contact situations.
It was tough but I don’t think it was anything like as described by O’Shea. Evans didn’t complain about it, nor did Gopperth in previous matches when he has been subjected to repeated attempts to take him out which were a lot worse than Evans may have suffered on Friday.
Lost all respect for O’Shea following his post-match comments; ‘cheap shots’, ‘disgraceful’. When I see the angelic halos shining brightly above the heads of the likes of Marler and Fa’asavalu then his comments will have some credence, not to mention the blatant blocking and conning of the referee – the last scrum was moving but intact until the Quins’ front row stood up and looked at the referee who duly obliged with a penalty.
It was always going to be a difficult game, Quins are a terrific side but I think we matched them and deserved at least a draw. Enough has been said about the decisions given against us by Small but my overriding thought is that the game of rugby is poorer when officiating standards (referees and touch judges) are so appallingly bad when there is little appreciation or feel for the game and decisions are often given to the team expected to win. Hopefully, our time will come on that premise.
A draw may well have been a fair result; Jimmy Gopperth missed kicks, uncharacteristically, but so did Nick Evans so it evens out.
It is heart-warming to read best wishes and balanced views from fair-minded Quins’ fans and other clubs’ supporters, following Arlecchino’s posts (every club has one, including us).
Dai Young said, sincerely, in his post-match comments that he felt sorry for us in not holding out for the win on Friday. It reminds me of the greater wider rugby community to which we all belong and enjoy each other’s company and banter. Long may it continue. It is also so encouraging and enjoyable to join in the debates and healthy exchanges of views on our board once more; Monkey1’s outrageous positivity (I’ll have some of those happy pills), Leipy’s pragmatism and top reporting, and the general considered posts from the vast majority of contributors. It shouldn’t be sugar-coated, or vitriolic, and can be critical – we are supporters and are entitled to express opinions.
Finally, I was in the West Stand bar post-match and was stood by the doors into the foyer area and in walked Semore; mine was the first face he saw, he smiled a calming smile and gave the air of someone quietly in control. Not much to go on, I know, but I think we are very fortunate to have him and if we do go down, after a fight, the club’s future looks secure in his hands which could not have said just a few short months ago.
Excellent comments DB, pretty much what I was thinking after taking time to calm down, particularly after the last scrum!!!
Wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments concerning the rugby community, of which I am proud to belong and sadly there will always be the odd one or two who do not fit mould.
Not wanting to tempt fate here, but I didn't understand why Fondse was cited after being issued with a red (therefore dealt with appropriately on the pitch), yet, as of 11.00 on Tuesday morning, there has been nothing mentioned about Vickers, despite only receiving a yellow for a very similar offence.
Is it really down to the ref &/or the citing officer, in which case we can chalk it down to another of the Small-man's poor reffing decisions, or was there something else at play with Fondse?
Honoured to get a special mention in this topic. If you go over to our forum you will see I am not alone, only difference is I've come onto your forum and been frank about my opinion to you directly. Also from twitter on the night a number of Quins supporters who don't come onto the forums were saying the same as me.
I do agree with those who lay a large part of the blame on Mr Small. I can only assume that either he needs a trip to Specsavers if he missed all of the late tackles or he was being a Homer.
Such a homer that he didn't sport the trip on Gopperth and gave you the match tying penalty despite your front row popping up...aye, right. That's not being a homer, that's being a poor referee.
I have been over to your forum and in amongst several "I hope Falcons get relegated cos they play too rough" comments were also several more measured comments, but I imagine you've ignored those as they don't fully agree with you.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2012:03:07:14:47:12 by Hideo.
To me quins seem bitter as their season is falling apart after looking so good and they failed to beat the bottom side and just sneaked a win against the 2nd bottom side. Can't see the title heading their way now.
Don't be like that, guys. Looking at the Quins board arlechinno represents all that is great about Quins. Their recent form and performances clearly entitle them to the moral high ground over the liks of the falcons. Add to that their ego and sense of entitlement and we must clearly be deserving of relegation.
I apologise, I wrongly jumped to conclusions based on some of your previous posts, which was obviously wrong.
I also welcome the new you; humorous and enlightened (seriously, no sarcasm intended)!
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