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Gloucester vs Harlequins: Castle Grim Stormed and Looted
By Bedfordshire Boy
March 9 2017

With our current form and diabolical away record there was only likely to be one result from our annual day trip to Castle Grim which does make you wonder why any Quins fans bother to make the trip. The answer is of course that you support your team through the bad times as well as the good but we have been severely tested in this our 150th year. 

The good news was the return to the side of Tim Visser, Kyle Sinckler and Chisholm the Elder although a bit disappointing to see that neither Horwill nor Reddish were in the match day squad. Nonetheless not a bad team put out by Quins but once again, on paper at least, not the strongest bench. A big test for the whole match day squad. I had a sneaky feeling that we might just win this game but not confident enough to record an away win in the prediction league.

 Billy Burns started the match with a kick into the Quins 22 but it was not long before Quins were attacking the Gloucester line but the ball was turned over and within seconds following some slick passing, Gloucester captain Heinz was pulled down inches short of the line by a desperate tackle by Ross Chisholm. Unfortunately for Quins, Charlie Sharples was on hand to get the ball over the line so following a straightforward conversion from Burns, Quins were seven points behind after a little over three minutes.

 The game continued with both sides running the ball at every opportunity but loose play and turnover ball resulted in a stop start phase. Following a sustained period of pressure by Gloucester, Quins clear their line and are unlucky not to get some points on the board following good runs involving Tim Visser and the impressive Joe Marchant. Quins first points of the match eventually come following a penalty for a high tackle by Afoa on Tim Swiel. Swiel kicks to touch and from the resulting line out inside the Gloucester 22, Quins set up a driving maul, are awarded a penalty but keep the ball alive which eventually results in a well taken try by Tim Visser who dives over the Gloucester defence to ground the ball. Much to the delight of The Shed, Swiel puts the conversion attempt wide keeping the score at 7 – 5 in favour of the home side after 22 minutes.

 Quins were beginning to get the upper hand although Mark Lambert was under lots of pressure from Afoa in the set piece. Another turnover by Quins led to the next score when Muchrone sent the ball wide to Chisholm who passed to Marchant who made ground down the left side. Marchant passed the ball to Visser who passed inside to Ross Chisholm who then slipped the ball to Charlie Mulcrome who crossed the line for a well taken team try. Great delight from the Quins contingent drowned out by cries of “forward pass” emanating from the partisan Shed. With Swiel this time adding two extra points, Quins found themselves five points ahead of the home side on 31 minutes. 

 Shortly afterwards, Gloucester earned themselves a cheap penalty when Heinz threw the ball straight at Lambert who was clearly in some discomfort retreating from an offside position. The penalty conversion attempt was interesting with the ball apparently going well wide of the posts before straightening up and adding 3 points to the Gloucester total. Score 10 -12 with 33 minutes gone as Evans comes on as blood replacement for Mark Lambert. From the kick off there was a sustained period of pressure by Quins eventually breaking down when Joe Marchant spilled the ball. Gloucester were penalised at the scrum as Quins shoved them off the ball leaving a fairly straightforward kick for Tim Swiel to bring the half time score to Gloucester 10, Quins 15. All in all a very good 40 minutes for Quins who to my mind were well worth their 5 point lead.

 Mark Lambert returned for the start of the second half and after Swiel kicked off there was a period of aerial ping pong ending when Heinz eventually put the ball safely into touch. Before the game could restart the Quins medical staff had to attend to Charlie Mulchrone who appeared to have an ankle injury and had to be helped off the field being replaced by on loan number nine Luc Jones. The first points of the half come after 7 minutes when a speculative high kick from Burns is fumbled by Mat Luamanu and the ball is booted through towards the Quins line. Although Matt Hopper gets back to collect the ball, he is quickly engulfed by the Gloucester forwards who turn over the ball which is passed out wide for wing Halaifonua to score a very simple try. Burns once again adds the extra points and the score is enough for Gloucester to retake the lead on 49 minutes.

 Things were to get even worse for Quins when Hibbard broke from a maul just inside the Quins half to get the ball out to Charlie Sharples on the right wing to virtually stroll in for Gloucester`s third try. Yet again the two extra points were added by Burns to take the score to Gloucester 24, Quins 15 after 52 minutes. Quite a turn around, things looking very grim for the away side and definitely getting that sinking feeling that all of the good work was yet again going to result in no return. With Rob Buchanan replacing Joe Gray and Gloucester in full flow Quins manage to get the ball safely into touch for some respite and even manage to steal the line out ball from the Gloucester throw in. As Quins try to run the ball out of defence, a massive hit on Tim Visser by Halaifonua results in a penalty to the home side and all of a sudden Quins find themselves another 3 points to the deficit with 24 minutes still left on the clock. Suffice to say, a very happy home crowd all anticipating at least 4 points from their day of labours, there is no way that Gloucester can lose this, is there?

 As is often the case, Gloucester are offside from the restart and Tim Swiel has the chance to reduce the lead from a kick more or less in front of the posts but the attempt is blown well wide by the wind. Nonetheless the next “score” did go to Quins when Mat Luamanu touched down under the posts following a break and offload from James Chisholm. Forward pass shouted The Shed, great pass shouted the Quins supporters but unfortunately the TMO agreed with the home fans; he obviously wasn`t aware that it was Mat Luamanu`s birthday! So with 20 minutes to go there was still life in this Quins team and Tim Swiel was replaced by academy player James Lang.

 Quins defensive qualities were brought under scrutiny yet again with Hibbard going close before some heroic defending by Marland Yarde kept out an almost certain try. On 64 minutes, Evans and Alofa replaced Lambert and Hopper for Quins and Heinz also left the field. A few minutes later Afoa was replaced for Gloucester by the Quins supporters’ favourite player, Paul Doran-Jones. Following another period of pressure from Gloucester with excellent defence from Quins, Flood replaced Halaifonua for Gloucester and Stan South replaced James Merrick for Quins. It is fair to say that up until this point Gloucester had the better of attack and territory in the second half but things were about to change when Quins ran the ball out of defence only for Hibbard to kill the ball inside the Gloucester 22 with 9 minutes to go. Despite Hibbard trying to keep well away from referee Greg Garner, he was shown a yellow card and therefore had to sit out the rest of the match. Quins kicked to touch, won the ball and when the catch and drive was stopped the ball eventually found its way to James Chisholm who ran through two defenders to score under the posts. James Lang added the two extra points so with seven minutes to go, Quins were now within a score of the Gloucester total.

 A noticeable drop in the level of noise from the Kingsholm crowd who were obviously getting nervous. Gloucester were back on the attack but when the ball was turned over it was quickly shipped out to Marland Yarde who made ground before slipping the ball to Alofa who then set Ross Chisholm free to score Quins fourth try of the match to bring the scores equal on 27 points. Much to the delight of the home crowd the conversion was missed to set up a tense last couple of minutes of the match. We now come to the highlight of the match when Gloucester are awarded a scrum just outside of their own 22.

 “What is the betting that a penalty is awarded against PDJ at this scrum and we score from the resulting penalty” says my compatriot in the stand, and that is exactly what happened giving Quins a last gasp chance to steal the match. It must have been unnerving for James Lang, especially as he had just missed a conversion attempt, but he stepped forward amidst the booing from a section of the Gloucester crowd and calmly added the three points to the Quins score line. With the clock in the red, Gloucester restart but the ball is bravely taken by James Chisholm who falls badly but gets the ball back to Luc Jones to thump the ball into the stand, final score Gloucester 27, Quins 30.

 My guess is that about 50 of us made the trip to the west country and that result made it all worth while. There is something special about a win at Kingsholm as it usually makes the place very quiet, although as with most rugby crowds, they were for the most part gracious in defeat. Interestingly Quins decided to play this match wearing their home kit, just part of the search to replicate our home form on the road perhaps? As for the team performance I don`t think that you could criticise any of the players for effort and there was a step up in performance in both attack and defence. I think I am right in saying that Quins did not lose one line out and even stole the odd one from Gloucester, apart from a couple of blips the scrum functioned well and play in the loose was competitive all round. Special mention of Mat Luamanu who had his best ever performance for Quins, Dave Ward who had a real captains performance leading from the front, Marland Yarde who was all over the pitch looking to get involved, Ross Chisholm who seems to be getting back to his best and a pair of locks that stepped up to the mark. You could certainly see what the victory meant to the squad when you saw their faces as they came to applaud the Quins supporters after the match.

A couple of low points are the injuries to Charlie Mulchrone who looked uncomfortable as he was helped off the field and James Chisholm who was treated on the field for more than 5 minutes before being stretchered off. Other casualties from this match were Gloucester prop Afofa who was cited for his tackle on Swiel and received a one match ban and their coach Laurie Fisher who stepped down from his post.

Big question now is to know if this is a turnaround point for the season or yet another false dawn? We will know soon enough as the away Anglo Welsh Cup semi-final at Sandy Park is going to be a real test.