The biggest change in celebration of the 150th anniversary season has been a re-affirming of the relationship between the Senior and Amateur clubs. Most obviously, every Quins player (from under 5 to the Pros) has worn the same kit. Behind the scenes however we were also delighted that Brian Holland came on board as Head Coach for the 1st XV.
Brian’s impact was immediately apparent during pre-season. The quality of coaching was much improved from previous seasons whilst Brian was also able to give us greater insight into the practices and habits which the Pro club employ to ensure that they are mentally in the right place.
The results have been clear to see.
Last season, the 1s languished at the bottom of Herts/Middx 2 and had often struggled for players. By the end of the 2015/16 season, we had training sessions attended by four people.
Jump forward 12 months and we’ve finished in a solid mid-table position. Along the way we’ve enjoyed some notable successes and in particular two games stand out as typical of our season.
Following a successful pre-season friendly, our first two competitive games were against the two teams relegated into our league this year – Old Millhillians and Bank of England.
The tie against Millhilians was nip and tuck. Ultimately, Quins missed a conversion with the last kick which would have drawn us level. We therefore travelled to Bank optimistic of doing ourselves proud.
Bank are a great team who went on to win the league at canter. Quins started poorly and at half time, we were 32-7 down. In hindsight, given the respective ultimate league positions, very few people would have been surprised had the game continued in this vein.
In a remarkable turn of events however, Quins upped their game and played some sumptuous flowing rugby marked by offloads, great support lines and threats from across the field – all made possible by our superior fitness.
In the end, we ran in 43 second-half points. Final score: 39-50. It was to become a consistent feature of our season that we would compete for the full 80 minutes.
As the winter months came, this running style of play was harder to maintain in the mud as games became more of an arm wrestle. However, we developed a fortress at home (including our game at The Stoop); winning all our games with one notable exception. Local rivals and bogey team Old Isleworthians.
The upshot was that at the end of January, we were comfortably midtable in 7th of 12 teams. HM2 has a somewhat unusual structure and at this point splits. Having topped the bottom half, we were optimistic as we found ourselves in a mini league comprising teams we had already beaten this season – and Old I’s.
In the past three years, we’ve played Old I’s five times and lost all five games. Typically, we have been higher placed in the league and on paper should win. For whatever reason however we haven’t played in our own style and instead have allowed ourselves to be sucked into a tight, mauling game against bigger opposition.
In late March, on a glorious Spring day, we made the short trip to TW7. The conditions suited our style of play perfectly and it felt as if this was an ideal opportunity to break our duck.
The game started brightly for Quins with early dominance leading to a penalty in the first three minutes. Thereafter however, we slipped back into our former ways; missing first up tackles and allowing Old I’s to use their effective power game.
Having let I’s in for three tries (all unconverted), in the past Quins’ heads would have dropped. Not this season however as we fought back to score a converted try of our own and were able to turn around just 15-10 down.
Although I’s started the second half reinvigorated and scored two further tries (25-10), once again it was clear that Quins were the fitter team. Sure enough, as the game moved into the final 10 minutes, Quins turned the tide with two tries in three minutes. Old I’s 25-24 Quins with nine minutes to go.
Aggressive defence from Quins, saw the Old I’s flyhalf knock on. Quins’ loosehead James Letherbarrow reacted quickest and hacked the ball downfield. Paul Hibbert won the footrace to the line and Quins were in front 25-31 with three minutes to go. Closing out the game with a final penalty from George Jaques, Quins not only recorded a bonus point win but also ensured that Old I’s were more than seven points behind.
On balance therefore, we’re in a great place for 2017/18. We have a solid core of players and are constantly attracting more. We should also have no fear against anybody in the bottom two thirds of HM2 so have confidence that we can show further progression next season. Promotion to HM1 is definitely not out of the question.
Updated 18:30 - 7 Jun 2017 by David Love