Harlequins vs Wasps: Out but not Down
By Bedfordshire Boy
January 18 2018
This the third meeting of these two teams this season, the first at The Stoop, but strangely feels like more. This is a match that Wasps have to win if they are to have any chance of reaching the Champions Cup quarter knock out stages so they were sure to turn up with all guns blazing. Quins on the other hand following four losses in the competition were certainly everybody's underdog but they have a good home record against the visitors in recent seasons. A number of changes for Quins with James Lang in for Marcus Smith who is on the bench, and Lewis Boyce, Archie White and Renaldo Bothma replacing Marler, Robshaw and Luamanu respectively. Not the best kick off time, but certainly better than 1945 hours, dry conditions with little wind and a surprisingly big crowd to watch James Lang get the game underway.
A pretty lively start for both sides and first set back for Quins came after only five minutes when after a heavy tackle on Charlie Walker, he had to leave the field being replaced by the ever dependable Ross Chisholm.
Five minutes gone and its goodbye Charlie Walker
It is fair to say that Wasps were probably having the better of the early exchanges and things were to swing further their way when Lewis Boyce for some unknown reason put in a great hit on Ashley Johnson without the ball. Referee Roman Poite had no hesitation in getting the yellow card from his pocket. Within a minute Wasps went ahead when quick handling along the Wasps back line exposed the lack of numbers in the Quins defence as Kyle Eastmond crossed the line. Danny Cipriani added the two extra points following a TMO review to check for a forward pass to bring the score to Quins 0 Wasps 7 after 19 minutes.
Almost from the restart Wasps are back on the attack and the problems with the Quins defence are once again demonstrated as Wasps number eight Nazaam Carr runs with ball from inside his own half to score Wasps second try. Cipriani once again converts, yet again a Quins yellow card results in 14 points to the opposition. James Langs restart kick goes straight into touch and as Wasps opt for a scrum, Archie White is sacrificed to allow Mark Lambert to take up position in the front row. Quins are awarded a penalty from the scrum allowing Lang to kick into Wasps twenty two and following the line out Ross Chisholm fumbles the ball close to the Wasps line. Then listened to the referee via the reflink lecturing the Wasps front row for apparently pulling back in the engagement making it look as though Quins were making an early engagement. While mentioning reflink, found it a bit lacking in volume at times but that was certainly preferable to some of the drivel coming from the Sky commentary team.
Quins are restored to full strength with the return of Boyce and White just before the 30 minute mark but Quins are under pressure again a few minutes later as Danny Care is penalised for deliberately knocking the ball on while defending in the Quins half. Cipriani kicks to the corner, then wham bam, Johnson touches down for Wasps following a well executed rolling maul from the line out. Two more points from the boot of Cipriani and Quins are trailing by 21 points eight minutes from the break; funny but it doesn`t feel as if Wasps are 21 points better than Quins but it is the scoreboard that counts.
Quins attack from the restart but a pass from Mike Brown is intercepted by Cipriani 10 meters from the Wasps line, Cipriani hacks the ball into Quins half but James Lang is first to the ball, evades a tackle by Le Roux, makes ground and then kicks to open space behind the Wasps defence. Ross Chisholm sets off like an express train and is first to the ball on the Wasps twenty two, he hacks it on, gathers it a couple of metres out before grounding the ball over the line despite the attention of three Wasps defenders.
Thirty four minutes gone and at last something for the home supporters to cheer about despite Lang failing with the conversion attempt. Wasps knock on trying to reclaim the ball following the restart and Quins work their way back into the Wasps half and following a break by Danny Care Wasps knock the ball on for a scrum 5 metres from the Wasps line. From the scrum, Care creates half a yard of space before passing to James Lang who wriggles through the Wasps defence to score under the posts with the clock in the red. Two more points from the boot of Lang and the first half ends a lot better than it might have done with a scoreline of Quins 12, Wasps 21.
Cipriani gets the second half underway and the open play continues with one of the highlights of the first ten minutes being a break by Wasps prop Jake Cooper-Wooley taking the ball deep into the Quins half. It is sixteen minutes into the second before Wasps score their bonus point winning fourth try after a sustained period close to the Quins line when centre Brendan Macken breaks through the Quins defensive line to score. Cipriani adds the extra points with the game once again swinging in favour of Wasps.
As is usual these days, around the sixty minute mark, teams start to ring the changes; Simpson replacing Robson for Wasps and Luamanu and Matthews replacing White and Merrick respectively. The Quins scrum seems to be getting the upper hand which leads to a period of pressure in the Wasps half before the game is halted for attention to Bothma who goes down after a heavy tackle, his second of the match. He is eventually led off the pitch clutching his arm and Quins replace Mike Brown at the same time after he had earlier received attention to be replaced by Marcus Smith and Elia Elia leading to a complete reshuffle of the Quins line up.
The pendulum has now definitely swung towards Quins and a claim for a Quins try is turned down after TMO intervention but on sixty six minutes they are rewarded when Care touches down from about half a metre out. After Marcus Smith successfully adds two extra points the game is now getting interesting as the Wasps lead is narrowed to nine points as the turn around in fortune is now being felt by the home supporters.
Wasps definitely now looking rattled as Quins continue to press home their advantage and the effect of Smith at number ten having a marked effect. Quins fourth try is scored as the game enters the final ten minutes as after Lang is tackled short of the line it is another long pass by Smith to Elia lurking on the left wing who manages to force himself over the line. Two more points from Smith, Quins 26 Wasps 28 with six minutes left on the clock.
The game is now more and more frantic and Wasps get the opportunity to increase their lead by three points but Cipriani fails with a long conversion attempt. With time running out Wasps clear the ball from their own half and as Quins run the ball back, James Haskell makes a horrible looking tackle on Jamie Roberts as James Lang runs the ball back into the Wasps half. The Quins attack falters when the ball is lost forward but referee Poite decides to look at the Haskell tackle as he consults the TMO, and as is normal, the more times that the incident is checked, the worse and worse it looks. I am sure that there was no malice in the tackle but nobody could really argue over the resulting red card but I really wish that we didn`t have to listen to the “Off, Off, Off” chants from the stands.
Card for Haskell to match his scrum cap
Dave Lewis replaces Roberts with about four minutes left and Wasps are really on the back foot as every time that they kick the ball clear from their half, Quins run the ball straight back with telling runs from Chisholm senior, Alofa and Care in particular. The last few minutes of the game is all one way traffic as Quins go in search of a winning score and after Luamanu is brought down inches from the line, the ball is recycled allowing James Chisholm to charge over the line for the winning score. To say that The Stoop erupted is no exaggeration and things reached a real crescendo when Marcus Smith easily made the conversion. So, from a scoreline of Quins 12 Wasps 28, Quins run out eventual winners after scoring five trys with a 33 to 28 win.
A funny game with Wasps apparently cruising to a bonus point victory before the tide slowly began to turn around the sixty minute mark. I think a combination of the changes in the Wasps line up and maybe taking their foot off of the throttle by a fraction allowed Quins to gain the upper hand. Games are won and lost by very small margins and Quins took their opportunity well and were justly rewarded. Marcus Smith made an impact as soon as he came on to the field but that takes nothing away from the performance of James Lang up until that point, I wonder if this might be the future 10/12 combinations for Quins? Cannot really fault any individual performances from the Quins side with great contributions from Bothma, Care, Lang, Sinckler, Roberts, Brown and the Chisholms. It appears that Bothma has broken an arm yet again with some reports suggesting that Mike Brown may have been concussed and Charlie Walker has ended up in hospital with damaged ribs.
We all know how Quins can play but the question remains can they get some consistency in performance and string together a string of wins instead of just the odd “big game”. Personally I think they are getting there and are developing into a good squad.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2018:01:22:13:05:53 by DOK.
Agree with your closing sentiment too but just hope we haven't left it too late to come on strong this year in the Prem. It is a very tight affair however!
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