Harlequins number eight Nick Easter is a club stalwart, but even he admits the team’s performance last weekend against Wasps was seriously sub par, and they were lucky to come away with a narrow win.
“We were extremely fortunate to get the win; we really dodged a bullet,” Easter said. “We didn’t really look in it – we probably should have lost the game by probably more than a score, but sometimes those games happen, and you look back over the season and there are times when we’ve deserved to win games and we’ve come out on the wrong side of the ledger, so we’ll take it.”
Unconvincing it may have been, but the win cemented their spot in the top four at a time when the battle for the play-off spots is more intense than ever. If the top two have stormed away from the pack, Easter knows the very least Quins must achieve this year is finishing inside that top four.
“We’re really focussing on getting in the top four, because as Northampton proved last year, you don’t have to finish top, and you don’t have to have a home semi-final to necessarily get to the final, and then who knows what will happen in the final,” he said.
“So top four, and trying to get as far away from the chasing pack, is the main accomplishment we’re trying to achieve over the next three games. You can’t tell how other sides are going to go, and they’re going to be snapping at your heels – Leicester and us are both on the same amount of points, and we’re only ahead on points difference, so we know that we’ve got to put in a much better performance this week than we did last week.”
Quins welcome 11th-placed Newcastle to the Stoop this weekend. The relegation candidates have scored the fewest points and tries in the league, while the home side boast the best defensive record. A win is a no-brainer, surely?
“No certainly not, not with Deano (Dean Richards, Newcastle Director of Rugby) making his return to the Stoop,” Easter warned. “They’ve got a full compliment of squad just about to pick from, while we’ve obviously got a number away on international duty or out through injury, so we know we’ll have our work cut out. It’ll be a different side to the one we played two and a half months ago, that’s for sure.
“Their away form in some ways has been better than their home form. Against Bath at the weekend they made it really difficult for them, and at Northampton, on a nice day when Northampton quite like to play, they only managed to score two tries, so they make it very very difficult for you. I think they enjoy those away trips – it’s a siege mentality.”
Dean Richards returns to the Stoop, and inevitably much focus will be on him after his ignominious parting from the club in the wake of the Bloodgate scandal in 2009. Does Richards’ return add an extra edge to training this week amongst the Quins boys?
“No, it doesn’t add any edge or anything like that, but you know what they’ll try and achieve as a team. You know you’re going to be in for a hell of a battle and the weather’s not promising too much this Saturday, so it makes those kind of physical, tight areas of the game even more important. You’ve got to get your accuracy right as well.”
Added edge or not, it is a must win game for Quins, and with Worcester to visit the Stoop the round after next as well, the London club could soon find themselves in an excellent position to challenge for that title once again.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Nick Easter was speaking at an Aviva Premiership Rugby Schools Programme event where kids had the chance to get closer to stars from the Aviva Premiership. Find out more at www.avivapremiershiprugby.com
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images