Harlequins struggle on diet of humble pie

Harlequins 9 Leicester 15
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The Independent Online

Wearing not the multi-coloured club version but a hair shirt, Mark Evans, the chief executive of Harlequins, issued a public apology over the "Bloodgate" affair.

"It has been a torrid and difficult summer for the club for reasons that you all know," he said, "and we have lost some people who have given quite exceptional service to Harlequins over many years. We have made some huge mistakes and need to apologise to all our supporters, sponsors and staff for that. The reputation of Harlequins has taken a deserved battering and we will need to redouble our efforts over a long period of time to restore it."

Not everybody at the club agrees with Evans – some think the reaction has been hysterical – but the fact is Quins are currently eating so much humble pie they can barely move. With Dean Richards, the director of rugby who oversaw the fiasco, in exile, they need a senior, high-profile figure.

It is understood that John Kingston, the head coach who was once in charge of Richmond, when they were a Premiership club, and Quins, is content to stay in his role. The club could trawl Britain and the world for a mastermind, and there would be no lack of candidates, but they have a man on their doorstep who might just satisfy everyone.

Sean Fitzpatrick, the former All Blacks hooker and captain who has clocked up more miles than Neil Armstrong, is on the board at Harlequins and he might just be tempted to get back to grass roots. England went for Martin Johnson. In terms of battle honours Fitzpatrick is up there.

In the interim Quins have yet to get off the mark this season, having lost to Wasps and, in their first home game, to Leicester. It is a touch ironic that the only two scorers, the stand-offs Nick Evans and Jeremy Staunton, were two of the least impressive players in a very unimpressive match.

Evans was by no means near his best and Staunton is a journeyman – ex-Quins, ex-Wasps – who will be back on the bench when Sam Vesty returns from injury. Even so, Staunton, who once missed a penalty at the Stoop in the last minute that led to relegation, kicked five penalties to Evans' three and that was enough.

Richard Cockerill, the Leicester coach, was asked if his team was hampered by having a "carthorse" at No 10. Cockerill defended Staunton to the hilt and was clearly cock-a-hoop at getting a win on the road. "We're not here to entertain," he said, "we're here to get points." And Staunton provided them even though the Tigers seem to have lost the art of scoring tries.

Harlequins: Penalties Evans 3. Leicester: Penalties Staunton 5.

Harlequins: Monye, Strettle, Masson, Turner-Hall, Lowe, N Evans, Care (So'oialo, 72), Jones, Botha (Fuga, 53), Lambert (Andress, 53), Stevenson (Guest, 72) J Evans, Robshaw, Skinner, Easter.

Leicester: G Murphy (Mauger, 42), Hamilton, Smith, Allen, J Murphy, Staunton, Ellis, Ayerza, Chuter (Davies, 42), Castrogiovanni (White, 17), Blaze, L Deacon, Croft, Woods, Crane (B Deacon, 74).

Referee: D Pearson (Newcastle).

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