Harlequin Amateurs overcame a selection headache on Saturday to earn a hard fought victory over third placed Belsize Park.
With a growing list of injured and unavailable players, and no fewer than nine players dropping out between training on Wednesday night and Saturday morning, a 16 strong squad took to the field in Regents Park looking for a win against tough opposition.
With Graeme Tew losing his race to make it to the game by 2pm, Simon Rowland slotted seamlessly in at fly half from his usual second row position as the referee got the game underway. From the off it was clear that the sides were evenly matched with organised defence from both teams putting a stop to any attack. It was Quins who had the upper hand in the early stages with their well drilled line out and scrums causing problems for the home team. Dominance at the set piece gave a good platform to attack for the visitors and Harlequins took first blood through a Si Rowland try in the 15th minute. With George just wide with the conversion, the scores stayed at 0-5.
Belsize Park used this score as a wake up call and spent the rest of the half exerting pressure on the Harlequins line. Big defensive displays from the like of Bernardo Gollo, Chris Addis and Kay Frazer weren’t quite enough to prevent two first half scores for the home side when they went over in the 23rd minute and on the stroke of half time to give them a 12-5 lead at the interval.
Quins are not a team to hit the panic button when things aren’t going their way, and this resilience and composure helped the visitors go through the gears in the second half. The scrum had gone from “slight upper hand”, to “out and out dominance” and with so much pressure being put on the home side, they were forced into uncontested scrums for much of the half. On 50’ fullback Charlie Blower collected a deep clearance kick and punished Belsize by running the ball back from “22” to “22” before finally being tackled. With George Jaques on hand to ship the ball to debutant Chris Couling, Chris was able to dot down for his first try for Quins. George added the extras to even the scores up at 12-12.
It was George himself on the scoresheet next after more pressure from Quins took play into the “22”. The Belsize defence just started to creak a little and the referee awarded Quins a penalty in front of the posts. With most of the players expecting a kick at goal, George showed great speed of thought to tap quickly and dive under the posts. 12-19 to Harlequins with 15 minutes to play.
The final fifteen minutes were all about Quins’ defence as Belsize found another gear. Last ditch tackling and some fine reading of the game allowed Quins to stifle almost everything that Belsize could throw at them. Will O’Donnell found himself guilty of entering a maul illegally to earn himself a rest, and with the man advantage Belsize managed a try in the right hand corner in the last play of the game. With the kick to level the game, the pressure told and the kicker dragged his kick wide as the referee blew for full time.
A hard earned win for Harlequins and a real testimony to our attitude and mental strength to turn up with 16 players (14 players until ten minutes before kick off) and grind out a victory against a Belsize Park outfit that deservedly sit only two places below them in the standings.
This weeks’ TES sponsored Man of the Match went to Simon Rowland for his Jack of all Trades display at ten and then in the row, his overall work rate around the park and his reading of the game for two important intercepts.
DoD went to Danny O’Connor, who despite making the journey to support the team, decided to spend the afternoon cheering on his old club.
A break in the league fixtures next week will allow bodies to heal, before we host Thamesians 2s at Broom Road on 2nd March.