By gregory p
February 28 2017
Before I get stuck into the match report I thought I’d clear up a bit of uncertainty following a muffled explosion in the Twickenham area on Friday evening. English Heritage issued the following statement: “English Heritage is sad to announce that the treasured local antiquity, Fortress Stoop, was blown up on Friday evening by a gang of architectural terrorists called the “Tigers”. The so called Tigers are believed to originate from Leicester, the UK’s most architecturally challenged town, and are on a Taliban-like mission to reduce the UK to the same mind-numbing 1960s inflicted architectural tedium that affects Leicester.
The history of Fortress Stoop is shrouded in mystery; it is believed to have been built in the time of King “Deano” Richard III. His reign ended in ignominy when a young Norman Prince Thomas Guillame and his physician were incarcerated in the Bloodgate Tower and never seen again. The King denied all responsibility but was forced to abdicate. The castle prospered under an iterant Irish nobleman, who suddenly departed on the “Grand Tour” to Italy, but in recent years the chronic neglect lead to Kingston Borough Council taking over the site, seemingly without much clue with what to do with it. Along with the demolition of the structure it is believed that Europe’s best collection of Medieval jester costumes have been lost”
Mercifully there were no casualties in the blast, but emergency services confirmed that several thousand dazed people were seen heading to Twickenham station muttering something like “I must go to Kingston, definitely, I must go to Kingston” or something like that…………Aw, come on, it wasn’t a total demolition was it? It just looked like a toddler had spilled Lego all over their bedroom and wasn’t in the mood to tidy up.
Yes, a game of rugby was played and a harder, sharper and faster Leicester were good value for their 18-27 win. While we almost nicked a bonus point with the last kick of the game (when Jackson’s conversion to our last (but no consolation) try went awry), it was a comfortable win for Leicester orchestrated by their half backs.
Sam Harrison at scrum half was razor sharp all night and passes the ball at a speed that even Superman struggles to catch in his teeth. Burns must have bruises on his chest so rapid is his pass. He was constantly first at the break down switching quick ball this way and that way and then mixing it up with his own darts. He twisted over like a giant eel from close range to score the Tigers’ first try that tilted the game Leicester’s way. I didn’t hear a man of the match announced but he was a really good shout for it. The only downside……he’s won the naff haircut of the season award for his Dracula meets Dave Lee Roth in a pony tail look. It’s not good in Transylvania, it’s not good anywhere.
His partner in crime was Freddie Burns who hit two conversions, two penalties, nailed an interception try that killed off the game and put a laser guided cross kick into Adam Thompstone’s hands that led to a penalty try. While he didn’t boss the game the way some out halfs can (and Nev threatened to do so briefly in a fizzing second quarter) you can’t argue with a points haul like that, particularly when his mind may be on next season at Bath. He put Quins to the torch like a haggis.
In some ways it was a game of four not quite equally timed quarters. The first period was dominated, implausibly, by Leicester’s front row. Ellis Genge (whose name sounds like he should have a prior appointment sacking Rome in the fourth century AD) seriously got the better of Adam Jones at the first two scrums. Then the other prop and hooker Bateman and McGuigan took it in turns to carve holes in our defence and only committed scrambling by Quins and some good old fashioned torpedo clearance kicks from Nev kept them out. First blood to Leicester came when the Leicester full back, Veinua, marked a Nev cross kick and sprinted it back at us immediately. We just about held Leicester up but conceded a line out deep in our half. We hit one of the Leicester forwards in the air and (the other) Dean Richards awarded the penalty for Burns to convert and bring the first quarter to a close.
The second twenty was ours with Matt Luamanu bullocking his way around pitch and Nev suddenly looking the master of old. Looking back, Luamanu was our only carrier of note and his hand off (as lethal as a boxers jab) was in good working order. Following one carry Leicester did not roll away and Nev popped over a penalty in front of the posts for 3-3 at 23 minutes in. Suddenly we caught fire, ignited by a good restart and two great show and goes from Aaron Morris – that boy has got Elvis’ hips. Luamanu and Chis rumbled it on and from quick ball Hopper gambled and chipped through close to the try line. Phew - he rolled double six as the ball hit the corner flag, stayed in play and fell into the path of Alofa Alofa who grounded it. It was pulsating stuff and Nev absolutely nailed the two pointer for 10-3.
From the restart the Force was still with Quins with Alofa and Marchant both making great runs. A high tackle on Yarde was punted deep into Tigers territory and we spent a breathless 5 minutes stretching Leicester like filo pastry but having nothing to show for our efforts. Our ring master Nick Evans then took a blow – to his arm – and had to leave the field with Jackson not a bad understudy. He put a high tackle penalty into the Leicester red zone which was followed by a great one handed line out take by Charlie Matthews. Tigers pulled down the maul and Jackson sneaked over a “not that easy” penalty to extend our lead to a “lull you into false hope” 13-3 with 38 minutes gone. The last 2 minutes of the half were in fact a foretaste of the second half, with JP Pietersen finally letting us know he was on the pitch and the Leicester 5 and 8, Barrow and O’Connor beginning to make some big holes in our cover. Burns couldn’t land a big penalty and off they trooped.
I don’t know what was said at half time but I do know that what was said in the Quins dressing room wasn’t up there with Jack Kennedy’s inauguration speech; what Aaron Mauger said to the Tigers might have been. They made a blistering start to the third quarter and finally their back line – hotter than a Jalfrezi on paper – finally started to deliveroo on the park. Mermoz, Betham and Pietersen all have hands nearly as quick as their feet and at last showed it. The forwards and backs linked well with hooker McGuigan nearly muscling over on the west stand side. The ball was recycled faster than a UKIP candidate altering his website and Harrison twisted brilliantly to dot down. Burns added the extras and only 6 minutes into the half it was 13-10 to Quins but with us looking a bit shell shocked.
We quickly shipped a penalty – Hopper off his feet – which Burns booted deep into our red zone. As the waves of attacks grew – with Harrison probing like a ferret on speed – we conceded another penalty which Burns again put into the corner. The pace was ferocious and we had no answer to it. From the line out Burns hit a precise kick to the “lonesome tonight” Thompstone out on the far wing. Morris – who had probably his best game for the Quarters – had to back pedal like a …….. UKIP candidate altering his website………and clattered off balance into the airborne Thompstone. There was only one question: red or yellow. As the replay came on screen it was apparent that Thompstone had made a good catch and only had to fall to earth to score. On the basis that gravity made his falling to earth virtually certain Dean Richards had to give the penalty try and – Gawd bless yer leniency Sir – only yellow to Morris. Burns extended the lead to 17-13 and the air was being let out of the Quins tyres.
At this point Tom Youngs (the ghost of England past) and Mike Williams (the ghost of England future, maybe) hustled on. Our bench by comparison looked like a police identity parade…..hmmmm they all seem vaguely familiar but none of them really look like they’d be guilty of making hard yards in a built up area.
Not long after more air came out of the tyres as Burns nailed a penalty following Quins holding on and not even Matt Luamanu’s one man wrecking ball was making a dent in the Tigers’ defences. Only a mix up between Williams and Pietersen let us off another five pointer as Leicester camped down at the north stand end yet again. In the end we were forced to play rugby in our half and in desperation the ball was flung along the backs. Burglar Burns roared onto an optimistic pass and away into the night with the game following right behind him. He took a clatter as he touched down so Owen Williams added the extras to make it 13-27 with 24 unanswered points at a point a minute in a pulsating quarter from Leicester. Mauger, maybe realising the game was his with only 17 minutes to play, took off his best player Harrison and shortly followed by Burns.
The last period was frustrating for Quins – we finally got some field position and bit of ball but contrived to find ways of letting Leicester relieve the pressure: a holding penalty here, a stuffed up line out there, and a kick out on the full from Alofa. There was still time for Marchant to make a staggering break – he didn’t look out of place alongside Mermoz and Betham – with Morris still giving us his snake hips routine and Yarde to his credit still looking for work. Ironically it ended up with the forwards rumbling one over after about three minutes of arm wrestling on the Leicester line with Leicester’s Hamilton off the pitch for a yellow that lasted all of thirty seconds. Dave Ward came up with the ball with the clock red. At 18-27 Jackson had the chance from wide out and on the wrong side to give us some comfort. The kick looked as convincing as………a UKIP spokesman saying why his candidate’s website had to be altered ……..and we were bonus point less amid a pile of strewn Lego.
Leicester deserved the win – it feels like ages since they’ve won at the Stoop – maybe it was when Barnsey went yellow card crazy a few years back? It was built – and maybe, just maybe, you’ve heard this before – on a good forward pack providing quick ball and making holes in the Quins cover. Their pack had – to me anyway – a slightly unfamiliar sound to it and yet they fronted up massively. Their skipper Barrow deserves a mention: he’s a big sod and as hard and lumpy as a prison mattress. He carried all night and was constantly in the ref’s ear. He was always in the way, slow to get on side and maybe having a dig and shirt pull. Does that remind you of any other Leicester second row of recent-ish vintage? He was also the last player to leave the pitch as he mingled with the travelling fans. We had no one to match his showing, and won’t until James Horwill recovers from injury. When it mattered we were just outgunned up front.
So, the club publicity team can stop the semantics about our unbeaten home record in the various competitions. The club travel team needn’t worry about the best way to get to Glasgow, Toulouse, Toulon or Dublin as we ain’t going there next year are we? And the club coaching team……..I’m sure I saw them on platform 3 at Twickenham station asking for the time of the next train to Kingston?
Good and entertaining write up, especially the intro. Thanks