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Wasps vs Harlequins: Jesters Avoid Being Stung
By Bedfordshire Boy
September 21 2017

There have been many unpredictable results so far this season in the premiership but I am sure that it was a very small minority that gave Quins any chance of coming away from The Ricoh Arena with any points from this match. I had a funny feeling that we might do better than expected, despite the fact that we had conceded a total of 90 points in our last two visits, but I was not confident enough to predict an upset in my prediction league score. The team that travelled for this game was certainly stronger and better balanced than in the two previous seasons. I would guess that there were about a hundred Quins supporters at the game, and although in a massive minority, we all made ourselves heard, even above the noise of those bloody drums.

The start of the game

The start of the game

It was Marcus Smith that got the game underway with the short kick off and Quins possession and pressure in the early period were rewarded when Wasps were penalised for off side from a clearance kick by Le Roux allowing Smith to pick up his first three points of the day with a straightforward penalty conversion after only a couple of minutes. The lead was short lived however as Quins were penalised following the restart to give Cipriani his first shot at goal which brought the score to three points apiece after only 4 minutes.

Quins had most of the play from the restart and went close with a fine break by Joe Marchant with the final pass being picked off by Elliot Daley whose clearance kick only found Yarde who made good ground and a promising attack finally broke down when Mike Brown lost the ball close to the Wasps line. Wasps finally cleared their lines as Daley found touch inside the Quins half. Play was halted as Reider left the field holding his arm which then saw the introduction of James Haskell which was well received by the home fans. Quins won the line out but a kick by Care allowed Wasps to set up a prolonged period of attack which ended with a try saving tackle by Marland Yarde on Cruse who failed to take the easy option of passing the ball for an almost certain try.

Relief was short lived however as Wasps set up another attack when a well timed pass by Cipriani found Watson who passed to Le Roux followed by a clever inside pass to the try machine that is Christian Wade allowed him to run in for the first try of the match. Cipriani added the two extra points and despite Quins having by far the better of the game up to that point, they found themselves the wrong side of a 10 points to 3 scoreline after 14 minutes. Quins found wanting on wide out on the flanks yet again. Both teams continued to press at every opportunity and another 5 minutes were to pass before the incident that has generated enough words on social media to sink the proverbial battleship.

Following the breakdown of a Quins attack, Haskell and Marler decided to roll around on the floor together until pulled apart by the other players. It was difficult to know what happened next from where we were sat to make Haskell then march over to the ever smiling Marler and grab him around the throat, but it seems that Marler squirted water at Haskell and the latter obviously lost it completely. Not sure that the referee had any other option than to show Haskell a yellow card, but not a view shared by the home crowd who continued their booing all the way through the resulting penalty conversion by Marcus Smith.

An unhappy Hasks goes for a rest

An unhappy Hasks goes for a rest

Things were to get even better for Quins as from recycled ball Smith chipped the ball forward to the left wing where Mike Brown rose above the Wasps defence to tap the ball in field to Marland Yarde who ran in to score. The conversion attempt by Smith hit the upright to leave the score at Wasps 10 Quins 11 with 23 minutes of the match gone. Wasps were straight onto the attack and once again Brown was left to defend against two players and it seemed that Watson was certain to score in the corner but fumbled the ball just before he crossed the line as Yarde got across to tackle. Bit of a worry as it took some minutes of attention by the Quins physios to get Yarde back on his feet before the game got underway with a Quins scrum. Wasps were once again quickly on the attack but the Quins defence held firm but referee Andrew Jackson went back for a Wasps penalty which Cipriani pulled wide. Smith kicked long from the 22 drop out which Le Roux fumbled in his own half leading to a Quins scrum, and much to the delight of the Wasps supporters, the return to the pitch of James Haskell.

DC gets the back line moving

DC gets the back line moving

Now it was Quins turn to attack and following several attempts to get into the Wasps 22, Smith attempted a long pass to the wing which Walker just failed to gather and the ball went in to touch, if Walker had managed to get his hands on to the ball there was try there for the asking. Before the line out restart Guy Thompson was replaced by Ashley Johnston in the back row. Wasps added to their tally on 35 minutes from a Cipriani penalty after Quins were penalised for a high tackle which is where the score remained until half time. What a terrific 40 minutes of rugby, played at pace by both teams, mistakes on both sides brought about more by the intensity of both defences s much as players mistakes. I certainly needed a break as I am sure did the players.

The start to the second half couldn`t have been better for Quins as they increased their points total by 7 points within three minutes after Wasps spilled the ball in the tackle. Following a sustained period of attack, Robshaw offloaded the ball to Walker who passed to Marchant who drew the tackle by Wade as he passed the ball back to Walker who ran in for the try. With Marcus Smith adding the extra points off of the upright the score moved on to Wasps 13 Quins 18 much to the delight of a very small portion of the crowd. Wasps immediately tested the Quins defence and were awarded a penalty for killing the ball which was kicked to touch.

Before the line out could be taken there was a long period when both Jack Clifford and Mat Luamanu were treated for a clash of heads which really wound up the home support when Head Injury Assessments seemed to be being carried out by medical staff. When the line out was finally carried out, play once again broke down when Quins were penalised for pulling down the maul. If the home crowd didn`t have enough to boo by this time, the booing reached new heights as Joe Marler was led off the pitch holding his ribs to be replaced by Mark Lambert. Yet again the Quins defence held firm from the second catch and drive when Hughes was penalised for holding on in the tackle a few metres from the Quins line. Quins were reduced to fourteen men after 52 minutes when Kyle Sinckler was adjudged to have collapsed a Wasps maul and from the kick to the corner Quins were unable to stop Cruse touching down for a try. Cipriani missed the conversion so the scores remained level at 18 points each after 55 minutes.

Despite the try, Quins managed the sin bin period well by only conceding 3 more points before they were back to full strength and in fact it was Quins who almost scored a Walker solo try in the corner. Lambert stayed on the pitch as Luamanu returned to the field to join Ben Glynn who had earlier replaced George Merrick. The game restarted with a 5 metre scrum to Quins, and after one reset Care broke and his pass to Jamie Roberts was knocked down by Cipriani who was shown a yellow card for his efforts; very lucky not to see red in my opinion. Once again, Smith made the penalty kick easy for the score to move on to 21 points to each side with 13 minutes left to play. Quins were to edge ahead on the scoreboard a few minutes later when Launchbury was penalised for killing the ball following a 20 metre break by Jaxk Clifford took the ball into the Wasps 22 metre area. Another conversion by Smith and the score moved on to Wasps 21 Quins 24 with around 10 minutes left to play. With Cipriani back on the field, Wasps threw everything at Quins but spilled the ball with less than 2 minutes to go giving possession back to the visitors. Quins did well to look after the ball until Marcus Smith booted the ball off of the pitch with the clock in the red.

The fact that this was only the second time that Wasps had lost at The Ricoh Arena highlights what a great performance this was from Quins. It is true that Wasps were uncharacteristically sloppy with the ball at times and on a number of occasions did not make full use of overlap situations. I think they also missed Dan Robson and Jimmy Goppreth as Simpson is much more suited as coming on the field late in the game when his pace is more effective. Having said that you cannot take anything away from this Quins performance, and to a man they stood up to everything that Wasps threw at them. Both Clifford and Luamanu are clearly getting back to full fitness and Mike Brown has put the London Irish game well and truly behind him. Charlie Walker continues to score although personally I would like to see the left wing position shared between him and Tim Visser. I really like the way that Marcus Smith manages the game and he is clearly not afraid to try different things during a match but my Man Of The Match by a country mile was Marland Yarde.

Plenty of niggle throughout the game and Quins were obviously not going to be bossed by Wasps who I suspect really expected an easy win, as did the home crowd. It seems pretty clear to me that Quins are playing a more pragmatic game, are more effective with clearance kicks from defence and are not afraid to boot the ball into touch when needs be but they are still prone to defending very narrowly. You do not have to run the ball at every opportunity and aimlessly kick the ball back to the opposition when under pressure. This game had everything including a pantomime moment featuring The Prince Of Clowns which seems to have got many people very hot under the collar. Most disappointing aspects of the day were the continuous chatting to the referee from the players as well as the booing and slow hand clapping from the home support, although the crowd reaction probably just goes to show that Quins were doing everything right. All we need now is for the group to crack on and take the points against the Tigers this Saturday.