The long wait for the 2018/19 league campaign to begin was over on Saturday as Harlequin Amateurs played host to Hanwell RFC at Broom Road.
Although Hanwell arrived with only 13 players, they opted to fulfil the league fixture rather than concede and play as a friendly which is credit to the spirit of the Hanwell team. It did however, mean they were fighting an uphill battle from the start and it took only ten minutes for Quins to open the scoring after a clearance kick from the Hanwell stand off was well gathered by Jake Matthews, who cut a great line in field, drew a couple of defenders before passing to Mike Lovelock to run in under the posts. The conversion easily slotted by George Jaques. 7-0.
Quins continued to probe the spirited Hanwell defence, and five minutes later Lovelock made another great break, only to be brought down by the opposition full back just short of the line. Support arrived immediately in the shape of Dave Love who picked and drove himself over the try line for try number two for the home side. The conversion was again successful. 14-0.
At almost a point a minute, it was looking like it could be a long afternoon for Hanwell, but they fought their way back into the game with strong runs from their lumpy pack and big back line, and were rewarded for their efforts in the twentieth minute when their blindside flanker rumbled over. With the conversion missed, the scores were left at 14-5 and Hanwell were unexpectedly back in the game.
Quins needed to respond, and did so in fine fashion as scrum half for the day, George Jaques made a great sniping break into the opposition 22, and in similar fashion to Lovey's try, George was brought down less than a metre short of the line, and Sean Gorman was on hand to pick and score under the posts. The extras made it 21-5.
The large home contingent of supporters didn't have to wait long for the next score when three minutes later, Aaron Addis made a great line break in midfield and fed Lovelock who drew the final defender before giving the ball back to Addis to finish under the posts. Again, extras added, 28-5.
With ten minutes remaining of the half, Quins had one more score in them and as sustained pressure took the home side into Hanwell territory, Quins were awarded a penalty which George opted to tap quickly and feed fly half James Summersett who couldn't quite squeeze through a defensive gap but managed offload to George who dived over the try line out wide. A fine conversion continued George's 100% kicking record for the day, and drew the scoring for the first half to a close.
Despite an extra Hanwell player arriving and bringing them up to 14 players, the second half started in much the same way the first half ended...with Quins launching wave after wave of attack on the Hanwell defence. Only strong tackles and wayward final passes kept the home side from extending their lead. On 46 minutes, however, James Summersett took the ball flat on the gainline, span out of the tackle and sprinted in to open his scoring account for Harlequins. 42-5 with George's conversion.
With the changes being rung by the coaches, Lovelock moved up to No.8 and Adam Wallace came into outside centre for his first appearance of the season. It wasn't long before the crowd were treated to some of the Wally magic we've missed in pre season, and after breaking up the left hand side, Wally stepped in field and threw an outrageous no-look-hook over his shoulder to Aaron Addis who dotted down out wide. This time the conversion was just wide, 47-5.
With less than twenty to play, Quins started to become guilty of taking their foot off the gas and Hanwell started to enjoy a period of possession. This wasn't helped by a drop off in discipline from the home team that allowed Hanwell to pin us back in our own half. Despite the scoreline, it was slightly against the run of play when Alex Horsfall showed great reading of the game to intercept a pass, make a few yards before releasing Mike Lovelock to score his second of the afternoon. The conversion again just wide, 52-5.
One of the constants throughout the game was the fact Hanwell refused to give in and remained dogged throughout the match. With a 42 point deficit, they continued to fight their way up field and were rewarded with a try when their fly half broke through to score just left of the sticks. The kick was missed, 52-10.
The final score of the afternoon came, fittingly, from Lovelock who ran in from 70 metres out to complete his hat-trick. George again added the extras and the game ended at 59-10 to Harlequins.
It should be mentioned that there was almost certainly another score somewhere in there from George Jaques, but when it was and why it was missed may remain a mystery!
Overall, a very encouraging start for Harlequins but it's important not to get ahead of ourselves. Winning with a two player advantage should be a given, and tougher challenges await in the coming weeks. In fact, the next challenge comes in the shape of Hayes RFC, next Saturday 22nd September.