On Saturday 3rd November Harlequin Amateurs made the short journey to Barnes to play Hammersmith and Fulham 5th XV in a top of the table clash. After eventually finding the changing rooms and setting off on the hike to the pitch, Quins began their warm up in the warm Autumnal sunshine. It was a slightly more error strewn warm up than usual for Quins, as nerves of the occasion seemed to creep in, but as the game kicked off it was clear that Quins were as fired up for this game as any other. Although H&F were at the top of the table and hadn’t dropped a point in the league to date, they also hadn’t been tested by any of the top teams and within the first five minutes Quins had taken advantage of an H&F infringement when Charlie Blower slotted a penalty from in front of the posts. Much to the anger of the opposition, with cries of “Why are you taking three points in this league?” being heard. 0-3 with five minutes gone.
This proved to be a wake up call for the home side who were next to mount an attack in what was to become a real see-saw of a game. Their big pack provided a few carries before it was the turn of the powerful inside centre who got himself over the line, only for the ref to adjudicate that Aaron Addis had brilliantly held the ball up over the line. With the attack thwarted, it was Quins turn to attack and with a great platform being set by the pack, with especially big carries from Harry Stark, Luke Nugent and Danny O’Connor, George Jaques was able to feed Mark Crow who powered over from short distance for his first score of the season. Charlie converted to give Quins a 0-10 lead after 15 minutes.
H&F are clearly not a team that are likely to let a 10 point deficit worry them and it was the home side that enjoyed a purple patch that took them up to half time. Two tries, the second of which an opportunistic finish from an awful bounce to deal with, brought the scores to 12-10 at HT.
The HT chat almost entirely centred around our penalty count, with sloppy penalties allowing H&F to quickly turn defence into attack. And while the proverbial “rocket” given to the players by the coaches did fire them up, it was H&F who continued where they left off with another converted score. 19-10 with 35 minutes to go.
As Quins had done in the first half, Hammersmith seemed to take their foot off the pedal just as the visitors found fourth gear. Great line out work from Will O’Donnell and a typically bruising display from Chris Addis coupled with great feet from Shamim Eceolaza at 12 and strong running from Aaron at 13 allowed George to release Alec Smail who sprinted in for his first try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed and it became a four point game.
With the scores so close, the game threatened to boil over and a few scuffles began to break out. One such bout of “handbags” resulted in the H&F second row taking a ten minute break. Never a team to be outdone, Charlie joined him in the bin for a breather shortly after.
As the momentum started to swing in the favour of Harlequins, Alec found himself the beneficiary of more fantastic team interplay when George again put him over in the corner with a perfectly timed pass. James Summersett, on for Tom Webb at fullback, superbly slotted the touchline conversion to give Quins a 22-19 lead.
In a game full of twists and turns, the pendulum again swung in the opposite direction and with 14 minutes left on the clock H&F scored an unconverted try to give themselves a two point lead.
Whether it be Quins’ “Never say die” attitude, or Hammersmith complacency...or both, Quins responded almost immediately. Indiscipline from the home side allowed Quins to take play deep into Hammersmith territory and Kay Frazer dived over in the right hand corner to score his first try for the 1s. Summersett couldn’t quite slot the conversion and Quins took a 3 point lead into the final five minutes.
What had been an undeniable strength for Quins all afternoon was their defence, with big hits coming in right across the field, and this proved to be the case in the remaining minutes as Quins were able to repel every attack, plus the kitchen sink, to hold on for the win.
With nothing left on the field by any of the lads it was impossible to choose a DoD and MoM, so both a Forward of The match and Back of The Match were chosen. Forward went to Mark Crow who put in one hell of a shift a hooker, and Back of The Match went to Aaron Addis who tackled ferociously all day and carried like a steam train going forward.
It should also be said that an incredible milestone was hit for Dave Love, who made his 100th appearance for the 1st XV. I’m sure a game he won’t forget, both for the result and the dislocated finger!
Harlequins take a well earned break next weekend before league action resumes at Broom Road on 17th November against Belsize Park.