Harlequin Amateurs kept their unbeaten run going on Saturday, despite having to overcome a half time deficit to do so.
With Quins playing with the Sun behind them, the game kicked off and it was clear from the outset that Belsize had not travelled to make up the numbers and were at Broom Rd to cause an upset. Both teams applied early pressure, but it was Quins’ penalty count that kept Belsize camped in Quins’ half...something that has become far too much of a feature this season. After only a couple of minutes Quins were 0-3 down after the Belsize stand off capitalised on ill discipline. Despite the feeling that the home side couldn’t edge out of third gear, Quins took the lead five minutes later when Alec Smail scored to the left of the posts. George Jaques made the conversion and Harlequins were 7-3 up after 12 minutes.
The first half continued to be a fairly even battle as neither side could take the game by the scruff of the neck. However Belsize did manage a converted try before the break after some great defensive work from the left winger saw him rip the ball in the tackle and run in from 40 metres to score under the posts.
The second half kicked off with Quins now playing into the blindingly low Sun, which was used to good effect by Belsize as the restart hung up in the air long enough for the chasers to make a nuisance of themselves. Play continued in much the same way as the first half, with both sides conceding sloppy penalties which stifled any good attacking opportunities. However, a moment of individual skill from Charlie Blower, playing at 12, saw him step inside, hand off one defender and gas another before scoring under the posts. George again adding the extras and Quins were back in the lead at 14-10.
It wasn’t a lead that lasted long though, and Belsize soon found their winger scoring in the corner. The kick missed, and it became a one point game with twenty minutes to go.
At this point, reinforcements were introduced. A nasty looking injury (he seemed fine in the pub afterwards!) to second row Will O’Donnell saw Alex Horsfall enter the fray, who provided his usual physically combatant approach to attack and defence, and Paul Hibbert came on to play inside centre in a reshuffled back line that saw George move to scrum half and Charlie step in to fly half.
These changes seemed to be the catalyst for Quins as they saw fourth gear for the first time in the game. Gaining a slight upper hand as the opposition tired, the home side applied more pressure to the Belsize line and Charlie took advantage of a weary defence to score his second try of the afternoon. Another solo effort that saw him dot the ball down under the sticks. The conversion again made and Quins were back in front within the final ten minutes. 21-15.
Harlequins were straight back inside opposition territory with typically strong carries from Harry Stark and Conor Ronayne, having a great debut at loose-head, allowing the ball to get to the speedy boys out wide. The hard work paid off when Quins were awarded a penalty in front of the posts that George Jaques duly converted to give Quins an eight point lead with less than five to go.
More reinforcements were sent on to close the game out as Cameron Gray and Jake Matthews came on.
Belsize Park weren’t done for the day, and straight from the restart were able to put enough pressure on the home defence to force a penalty. The visitors successfully kicked the three points and with a couple of minutes left on the clock, were back to within a converted score of winning. It wasn’t to be, however, and Quins held on for their eighth successive league win.
While not being of the same calibre of performance from two weeks previous, it was an important win against good opposition who sit third in the league. And more pleasingly, Quins proved they can still win when not playing well.
With no stand out DoD, a Forward and Back were chosen as the TES sponsored MoM. A great debut from Conor, and another top showing from Charlie made sure they were in with a shout. But the awards went to George Jaques as Back, and Danny O’Connor as Forward, both of whom continue to put great shifts in each week.
Many thanks to Wayne for taking some cracking photos of the game. Click the link to have a look.