Slaughter at Stoop confirms Quins' demise

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The Independent Online

No hiding place for Quins this time. Not even the referee, who had dispensed some pretty rough injustice last week, could be blamed. In front of a crowd in which the home supporters appeared to be outnumbered and were certainly outvoiced by the visitors at the Stoop, Harlequins surrendered lamely. Whatever remnants of pride and dignity remain from a frightful season were scattered to the four corners of the field where Leicester roamed to their hearts' content scoring eight tries.

Harlequins are a team in terminal decline, in transit between jobs, for surely very few of the players representing them yesterday can feel secure about their long-term futures. They were as dysfunctional as their wretched public address system, which at one stage during the match spluttered into life relaying the referee's comments to the main stand. This was an intrusion into privacy we could well have done without and was mercifully brief, but everything about this once distinguished club is on the wrong wavelength.

In their best positions Harlequins are barely adequate and, although there were pockets of resistance in the face of Leicester's relentless onslaught, there was no direction, no strategy, and not a hint of flair. It must also be said that for a good part of the first half Leicester were themselves pretty dire. Their policy of passing their way out of trouble instead of kicking was admirable had they been able to pass the ball with any degree of accuracy, but they went through a prolonged spell when their control deserted them.

Perhaps they had been beguiled by the ease with which they had opened the scoring within a minute of the kick-off. Tim Stimpson and Geordan Murphy opened up the Quins' defence on the right, Leon Lloyd splintered them down the middle, Martin Johnson drove to the line and Austin Healey jinked over. As simple as that. But for the next 23 minutes, Leicester made a hash of almost everything else.

Everyone it seemed wanted to score tries and as a result the simplest and the safest options were too often ignored. Their profligacy went unpunished, however. Even in promising attacking positions, Harlequins did not find the accuracy or the timing to put their chances away. And when Ben Gollings missed a penalty in front of the post Quins knew that even this most prosaic route to points scoring was going to be denied them.

Midway through the half, it dawned on Leicester that the simple things done reasonably well would suffice, Stimpson came in on the end of a slick passing move to score a try that established a club record for an individual in the league, breaking John Liley's landmark of 272 points in a season.

Harlequins' resistance, such as it was, was broken there and then. Jamie Hamilton, profiting from a wheeling scrummage, poached the ball and ran 20 yards through appallingly loose tackling to score and, three minutes later, David Lougheed squeezed over in the corner for the first of his two tries following an incisive blindside attack.

The contest was over and not even the despairing pleas of the match announcer through the crackling Tannoy could whip up any enthusiasm from the disenchanted home support. After another season of stalled progress and failure, they know the form. A catalogue of errors led to Murphy's try shortly after the restart and this was followed by Lougheed's second. Stimpson converted both before Leicester indulged Liley's dribbling frenzy for long enough to enable him to score Harlequins' only points.

This though was merely the prelude to another bout of Leicester scoring, Craig Joiner, one of the flock of substitutes who poured on to the field throughout the second half, scored the Tigers' seventh try and Stimpson kicked his sixth conversion. His seventh successful kick followed Joiner's second try as he cut through Quins' defence with contemptuous ease. Leicester continued to spurn innumerable chances, which was just as well. What is happening to Quins at the present time is sad enough.

Harlequins: B Gollings; J Keyter, N Greenstock, G Delmotte (J Schuster, 56), B Daniel; R Liley, H Harries (P Richards, 52); D Barnes, C Ridgway (M Williams, 77), J Leonard (P Graham, 56), G Llewellyn (capt), G Morgan (J Evans, 66), S White-Cooper, C Sheasby, P Sanderson (R Jenkins, 51).

Leicester: T Stimpson; G Murphy, L Lloyd (C Joiner, 44), P Howard, D Lougheed; A Healey (W Greenwood, 56), J Hamilton (J Grindal, 58); G Rowntree, R Cockerill (P Freshwater, 32-40, 61), R Nebbett, M Johnson (capt, F van Heerden, 56), B Kay, L Moody (P Gustard, 61), M Corry, N Back (J Akurangi, 71).

Referee: A Rowden (RFU).

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