ONCE upon a time Harlequins would have lost a match like this. But as they proved in their fixture against Bristol two weeks ago, they are a sterner proposition these days. With seven minutes to run yesterday, Andy Lee, the Saracens' stand-off, chipped over and collected his own kick to score. Saracens were 15-13 ahead, Quins were beaten by a bad bounce and that, as used to be the case, is how it may have remained.
Not so with this side, who managed a dramatic finale. From the restart, Rory Jenkins flew into the melee to win the ball and set up the first of two phases of possession. Both times around, most of the crowd, and clearly all the Saracens defence, expected a drop goal from David Pears, but on the ball's second appearance, Pears whipped a super pass across both his centres to Jim Staples. Staples charged through unopposed, drew the single remaining marker, flipped out an easy pass and was punching the air well before Daren O'Leary had crossed the line.
Staples' expression of joy spoke for the rest of the team - for the match could easily have gone against them. Twice, in the second half, Saracens grabbed the lead and looked likely to keep it.
The last tense half-hour made up for the tedious tempo of much of what had preceded it. Pears produced some immaculate crossfield kicking but was less successful with his kicks at goal and three out of five had missed before Martin Gregory scored Saracens' first try in the 51st minute. Quins went ahead again when a move the length of the pitch ended with Gareth Allison bursting through a tackle to score.
Then came the fretful finale, Pears increasing Quins' lead with a drop goal in the final minute. That he was there to do so was miracle enough in itself as minutes earlier he had lain dazed on the ground. In years past, you would have bet on his leaving the pitch on a stretcher, but this time he was up and sufficiently recovered to win the match. Times are certainly a-changing at Harlequins.
Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary, P Mensah, W Greenwood, S Bromley; D Pears, R Kitchin; S Brown, B Moore, A Mullins, A Snow, M Watson, G Allison, R Jenkins, C Sheasby.
Saracens: A Tunningley; M Gregory, D Dooley (T Ellis, 66), S Ravenscroft, P Harries; A Lee, B Davies (D Phillips, 80); R Andrews, C Olney, G Holmes, M Langley, M Burrow, J Green, R Hill, A Diprose.
Referee: A Lewis (Irish RFU).Reuse content