Best of the Weekend: Quins clinch famous victory over Exeter

Joe Marler

It looks as though the Paul Gustard era is really starting to kick off now at Harlequins, as proved by Friday night’s win at the Stoop. The scoreline was very close and the last ten minutes were tense but truth be told Quins should have won that game by a country mile, but the clinical edge is still lacking somewhat. The back five were outstanding and the backs shone behind the powerful platform that was laid down for them.

It was a famous victory but we mustn’t get too far ahead of ourselves and I’m sure Gustard won’t. Harlequins give or take fielded their strongest side minus Robshaw, Horwill and late withdrawal Matt Symons whereas Exeter rested all their England internationals and only recently Scotland-capped Sam Skinner was played. There is also still a lot to work on: the strike rate needs to improve a lot and they need to become more rugby-smart. They almost threw the game away when Ian Whitten intercepted a Marcus Smith pass to bring the game to 2 points and they must be more accurate off the tee. It was an area I highlighted last week and once again there were quite a few kicks missed, and this could become crucial later on to determine key matches and it’s something that needs addressing. On the whole however, Harlequins showed on Friday night that they’re back in business.

Tigers give up after Eastmond red card
It speaks volumes about the level of confidence and belief in Tigers at the moment. Few outside of the Bears fanbase had predicted that result, I did but not by that margin. The concerning thing for me about the decision is that if it was a red card, why didn’t Madigan go for a HIA? Yes there is nothing in the laws to say that for a red card the affected player must have been injured substantially but the red card is supposed to be a severe punishment. A lack of injury surely doesn’t require severe punishment. However back to the match, with the one man advantage the Bears roared into life and Tigers were pathetic comparably in their attack, with only a converted Manu Tuilagi try and a George Ford penalty to their name.

Saracens stretch away and remain unbeaten
Going into this game, the defending champions were definitely huge favourites to win this game but to Wasps’ credit they hung in there with a 9-6 scoreline going into the 65th minute. However Sarries let loose late on with Jamie George crashing over and then replacement lock-forward Nick Isiekwe intercepting a poor Elliot Daly pass to give the home side an unassailable lead. Saracens are now the only team to be unbeaten this season and they look set to continue that form with Cardiff Blues at home next Sunday in Europe.

Gloucester provide reality check for Worcester
I think people were overhyping the Warriors in recent weeks, they went on a really decent winning streak because they fielded strong teams for the Challenge and Premiership Rugby Cups, they lost to Bath away but this result has really brought the West Midlands side back to Planet Earth. Gloucester’s pack was mesmeric once again and they scored some lovely tries off the back of it with winger Ollie Thorley scoring another brace, and despite a late Bryce Heem consolation the Cherry and Whites eventually cut free to a 36-16 victory.

Unlucky Northampton lose out to Falcons
Even Newcastle Director of Rugby Dean Richards admitted that his side probably didn’t deserve that match, the Saints had cruised to a 14-6 lead through two Cobus Reinach scores but for one reason or another they couldn’t continue that run and Mark Wilson, after his heroic antics for England last month, scored an 86th minute converted try that stole the game. The victory however couldn’t prevent the Falcons from lifting themselves from the bottom of the table.

Late Cokanasiga try earns Bath draw against Sale
Boring probably is too kind a word to describe that game on Sunday afternoon. Bath certainly had the upper hand in terms of possession but just couldn’t break down that determined Sale defence. At the interval the game was scoreless as both sides had missed a penalty each and Denny Solomona was correctly denied a try by the TMO at the stroke of halftime. The first try of the match came through on-loan Jean-Luc du Preez who powered over from close range before Bath levelled with a Cokanasiga touchdown after some lovely work from replacement Cooper Vuna. Neither side could add to the scoreline in horrible conditions, and so it ended a draw, Bath’s third such result this year!

My Premiership Team of the Week
1 – Sam Lockwood (Newcastle)
2 – Jamie George (Saracens)
3 – Henry Thomas (Bath)
4 – Maro Itoje (Saracens)
5 – George Merrick (Harlequins)
6 – Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins)
7 – Jaco Kriel (Gloucester)
8 – James Chisholm (Harlequins)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Sale)
10 – Ian Madigan (Bristol)
11 – Nathan Earle (Harlequins)
12 – Francis Saili (Harlequins)
13 – Alex Lozowski (Saracens)
14 – Ollie Thorley (Gloucester)
15 – Sam James (Sale)

Meanwhile in the Pro14
Munster smash Edinburgh at the Irish Independent Park, Chris Farrell making a triumphant, man-of-the-match return to competitive rugby after 8 months out and the Irish province, bolstered by the return of their Irish contingent and Farrell, were simply a class above their Scottish Counterparts. Ospreys expectedly thrash Zebre in Swansea with Welsh winger Luke Morgan bagging a hatrick and the visitors were nilled.

Ulster edge the Cardiff Blues through John Cooney’s boot, the talismanic scrumhalf returning from Irish duty, 16-12 in Ravenhill with the Blues coach John Mulvihill certainly not holding back in his criticism of the referee. Connacht seem to be on the up after a crucial and tight away victory over the Cheetahs in South Africa. A Leinster side that has rested its international stars smashed Dragons in Newport 10-59.

Benetton Treviso got their 1st away win of the season against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth which certainly gives them momentum giving the daunting challenge of facing Harlequins next week in the Challenge Cup and Glasgow definitely showed Leicester how to win when down to 14 men after holding on to beat Scarlets 29-20, despite Alex Allan being red-carded early on for a no-arms tackle to the head on Jake Ball.

What happened elsewhere?
In the Top14, Clermont got a huge victory away in Montpellier, Lyon kept the heat on the top of the table with a convincing victory over Pau at home, Agen snuck a surprise victory over Castres away from home, Bordeaux got a decent away victory over Perpignan and Toulouse demolished Stade Français 49-20 at home.

On Saturday, a late Elton Jantjies drop goal secured a Barbarians victory in an entertaining (as ever) match over Argentina at Twickenham. Both sides had named strong outfits with the Baa-baas full to the brim with South African internationals as well as Juan Manuel Leguizamon on his rugby farewell. Rugby was definitely the winner in this one but it’s really good to see that people are taking the Baa-Baas seriously again and that they are winning matches.

Key Talking Points?
– Are Harlequins back on the rise or was Friday night’s victory a lucky home win?
– What’s up with Edinburgh at the moment? Second season syndrome?
– Why is there inconsistency in officiating in rugby? Is it solvable?
– Do you think Leicester’s problems are above board?

By Jacob Bassford (add me on Twitter @jacob_bassford and subscribe to my Youtube channel @FlyingG_Sports)

20 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Quins clinch famous victory over Exeter

  1. “if it was a red card, why didn’t Madigan go for a HIA?”

    As you subsequently (and correctly) write, the two are not linked, so are you suggesting that there was something untoward going on.

    2 points I would make on this is that we have just seen a series of Autumn Internationals that have generally ignored sanctions for these sorts of tackles, and secondly Bristol had Callum Sheedy on the bench who has been performing extremely well through the season thus far, so I can’t imagine Bristol had any ulterior motive for keeping Madigan on.

    Actually, one more point; what a ridiculous tackle from Eastmond.

  2. – Why is their inconsistency in officiating in rugby? Is it solvable?

    There are so many laws in Rugby that for one man to ensure that all 30 players are abiding by them all of the time is impossible. Therefore they become interpretive, in the sense that the ref manages the game in a particular style.

    I don’t believe that it is solvable.

    I do believe however, that this variety is one thing that makes Rugby such a compelling sport to watch and play.

    1. Blub, posed a piece addressed to you under ‘Positives & Negatives of Oz Match’ in respect of reffing because you’ve stated that you have exp of same. It concerned a conversation I’d with a ref about officiating & actually applying, rather than interpreting rules. If you’re so inclined to back track a bit, I’d be interested in your take on this. Regrds.

      1. Don, I didn’t notice that, but at your behest I have responded to it. I both partly agree and party disagree.

        The Laws have to be interpreted. As an example, we all understand the concept of “the gate” at the breakdown right?

        Apologies for the over use of analogies but;
        given that the “gate posts” are likely to be moving as players look to enter the breakdown, whilst at the same time the ref is looking for offsides, both sides of the ball, both in front of him and behind him, ensuring that no-one is “off their feet”, the placement is correct, the use of the shoulder is legal, is the player at the back part of the ruck, or taking the scrum-half position (and therefore not part of the ruck)?, the tackle release is “timely”, and then the ref has to interpret whether players are “through the gate”. They have to officiate on their “feel” for the game.

        1. Mmm, Blub, thanks. Pretty complex. I see that the sit you describe is multi layered & that the ref has only 1 set of eyes, so he may miss some areas you describe. However, surely the game & laws require that laws be applied, @ least to the best of the ref’s abilities. The ref I spoke to seemed to suggest otherwise; i.e. Seemed he cherry picked when to ping players for offences for the sake of the game’s continuity! What I had in mind were/are particularly decisions which can change games’ outcomes & which we’ve recently witnessed. If ref’s do ignore, fudge or cherry pick, then this is surely the road to chaos. I think yr example highlights difficulties refs can face alright, but they must attempt to just apply rules & that’s it. Some cases of this have been at atrocious I think.

  3. The red card is supposed to act as a deterent, not just as a punishment. In making high tackles a red card offence it should mean players lower the tackle height in order to avoid a situation where a red card may be brandished, thus reducing the chance of injury. To suggest it’s not a red because there is no injury is pretty daft imo.
    Oh Bath, what is happening? Ahead on territory and possession but didn’t take the points that were on offer and suffered for it. I really think the half-back roster needs addressing, there is little creativity to back-up a powerful forward pack.

    1. Looking at it again, I don’t think there can be many complaints; a high, swinging arm which appears to make contact with the head/neck is a red regardless of what happens to Madigan.

    2. Jake, agree in principle about red card. However, WR needs to reappraise & redefine this rule IMO. Currently there appears to be NO onus on the tackled ball carrier not to dip his body (& therefore head) into a tackle, as per Danny Cip’s seemingly minimal contact recent red. Surely the carrier must also share some responsibility here, otherwise it could be used as a cheap way, particularly for a heavier player, to facilitate deliberately getting an opponent binned. Dunno yr thoughts on this?

      1. I agree Don, on the other end of the scale is seemingly “soft” challenges leading to yellow and red cards which kill the game. Another area of contention could be aerial battles; surely the player in the air should take some responsibility?
        I think the laws do specify a difference between accidental tackles, whereby a player has ducked/slipped into a tackle, and reckless tackles, whereby a player carries out a dangerous tackle that was obviously going to cause injury (wording could be better but think you catch my drift).
        Does this then mean that we come full circle to the topic of officiating again? If the laws are applied consistently then these accidental high tackles shouldnt have too much of an impact on the game.

        1. Jake, unclear about yr take on aerial battles. I assume the rule about making contact with the ball catcher in the air is designed to prevent potential injury or in the worst case, broken necks. Don’t quite see how the catcher has responsibility other than to catch the ball? Could be some ? about whether the catcher, or his opponent too for that matter, should be allowed to bring his knee/s up & towards his opposite number in the air, but that’s all as far as I can tell?

  4. 1) Too soon to state yet, don’t believe in this 1 swallow nonsense. 2) Dunno. 3) Refs DON’T do their jobs & apply the rules for reasons they need to be grilled about by a semi-circular parliamentary select committe (T. May may be a useful adviser here). Insolvable without the will (& guts) of WR, the sacking of the H of Refs & the will (& guts) of refs themselves. 4) Don’t understand the last ?

      1. Well JB, looking @ Leicester’s team, they have an Fngland fr row, I know of Kitchener in the 2nd & the b/row, I’m unsure of their quality or indeed the 2nd lock. They also have a sprinkling of internationals in their back line with the likes of Youngs, Ford, Toomua & Tui. Therefore, to get hammered like they did v Bristol recently, must also suggest that the caching is underwhelming. Can’t all be the board, can it?

  5. “whereas Exeter rested all their England internationals and only recently Scotland-capped Sam Skinner was played” – Skinner wasn’t in the match day 23. He was rested also.


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