Day of the Match - A Harlequins
Posted by DD on July 26 2009 13:03:25
Saints got themselves back on track with a Jekyll and Hyde performance against a Harlequins side showing a rapid decline in fortunes over the last few weeks. The second half showing was probably as poor as the first half was brilliant but, given the terrible injury crisis that we are now in the midst of, it can be viewed as nothing other than an excellent performance and there isnít one Saints supporter who would have gone to the Stoop ever believing that that we could have won by such a margin, let alone not being happy with it.
With the game being a 3pm kick off on the Saturday it was an early start, very early in fact, as the taxi driver came a knocking at 6.15am for the 7am departure from The George where mine host declared that, sensibly, alcoholic drinks would not be permitted on the first leg of the journey. However, the first leg meant only to the edge of our own county boundary, and Iím not talking about that post 1974 nonsense here, I mean the palatine of Lancashire and, as such, as soon as we crossed Thelwall Viaduct, at about 7.30am, St. Bert was in, cider at the loose, and it was all destined to get very messy for our captain and leader and, as ever, he didnít disappoint.
The journey was undertaken in a swift manner that enabled us to roll into Twickenham High Street not long after 11.30am and there had been just the one bizarre stop off at a service station in Oxfordshire that was completely over run with Japanese tourists, not only that but, in true stereotypical fashion, they wanted their pictures taken with everyone and everything as the party hurriedly tried to get their photos taken with each of the Saints fans in turn, with their coach, with the shop stewardesses and, strangely, next to the toilet door in one particular case.
Whilst the masses headed for the predictable Cabbage Patch, the respected journalist, Dave Davies and I headed off to the Barmy Arms down by the River Thames and oh how quintessentially English it was with all the speed boats, rowing boats, glasses of Pimmís etc. Thatís all a bit of me, Iím telling you but what do I normally get, gravy boats and Pimmies Pies, thatís what. Anyway, we had a nice couple of hours in the company of our esteemed chairman, Mr. Eamonn McManus and what a thoroughly decent chap he is too, a real good egg and one of the interesting things to come out of our conversation concerns the Play-Offs. Did you know that should Saints finish top, our choice of opponent is not restricted to just the winners of the two Elimination Semi-Final ties? We can actually choose to play the second placed club, assuming they have won their tie also. So, in reality, we could face up to Leeds to get them out of the way whilst paving the way for one of the rubbing rags to get through to play us in the final. Maybe that top spot is a little bit more important than we thought.
There was just time to meet up with the hoards again for a swift one in the Cabbage Patch before walking on to the ground and to get there just in time to see the two teams coming out both wearing black shorts and socks. Look, white with a red vee does not clash with all black and a multi-coloured front. Green and black is much more of a clash so why on earth are we wearing this ghastly kit so much for no reason whatsoever. If thereís no clash, then everyone should be made to wear their home kits. Saints were obviously without Wellens, Roby and Lomax who all picked up serious injuries last weekend and Adie Gardner with flu, but Eastmond and Flannery were back with Tom Armstrong and Jamie Ellis drafted in. Kyle Eastmond was in at full back, contrary to the teamsheet and what is it these days with us naming players in positions they never actually take the field in? The stattos of the likes of Billy Bates and me are in turmoil over things like this you know. Bloody Lee Gilmour hasnít even been named on the teamsheet once in the position he has played in over about the last two months.
Few expected a vintage Saints show but thatís exactly what we got in the first half as we simply tore the home side to pieces. Granted, the Quins were a bit on the shit side, well a lot on the shit side, to be honest, but you couldnít take anything away from a classic half in which we hardly ever put the ball to ground. Firstly, we created the space for Tom Armstrong to go in on the right, just seconds after he could have had another and Kyle banged over the touchline conversion to sighs of ďif onlyĒ. Then big Tony P waltzed home close to the sticks. Whilst I was off to the loo, there was a huge cheer and I assumed the resultant chants of ďLeonĒ meant the man had scored, so imagine my disappointment as I returned to find it was still only 12-0, as the cheer had been for a 40-20, but, within seconds, I was happy again as James Graham powered over. The procession continued unabated as Leon made the break to set up Eastmond, Tony P got his second and Leon got the try he deserved with a score just on half time and just how well did he play as he cruised home to the man of the match award? 34-0 at half time and, given the injury situation, a scoreline that was scarcely believable and one that really gives us hope that we can still go all the way.
Alas, if the first half was more in line with how we played at Castleford, the second half was more like we played at Salford. Although there was a fantastic try from Chris Dean, out right and Jon Wilkin twisted over, there was only one team in it after the break and it wasnít us. Whereas the first half had seen some superb ball retention, the second half hardly saw us see out a set of six. The Quins went over for four converted tries and it probably could have been more and, after those first ten minutes, we didnít even come close to scoring but who could complain? 44-24 against top eight candidates, with half a team missing through injury, is an excellent performance and if the first half and second half had been reversed, we would all have come out purring with delight. There appeared to be no further injuries too so, at last, a good week for the club all round, expecially with Leeds having succumbed to the Pies on Friday night also.
St. Bert decided that we should have an extra hour after the game and hats off to Chris Warren and the Quins team for some entertaining post match stuff with interviews and a live band (of sorts) on stage, whilst St. Bert staged an impromptu pitch invasion and, rather unsuccessfully, tried to kick a few conversions. So bad in fact was he that even Paul Wellens would have looked away in horror.
The journey home was all rather entertaining as yours truly briefly nodded off to awaken to the sound of clicking mobile phones taking footage of an unfortunate bout of snoring but there was more in the way of fun with a splendid singalong to St. Bertís classic obscure track list. Can you imagine anywhere else, a cross section audience of 20 to 45 year olds bounding up and down in the aisle singing along to greats such as Fuzzbox and John Farnham?
A great win to put us all back on track then for next weekís derby against the resurgent Pies which could well be a pre-cursor for the Challenge Cup Final, the way things are going. It should be a classic and I, for one, am counting down the days already. Itís little more than a 50-50 shot for me and we need the fans to really get behind them and be that extra man. Come on you Saints!