Sunday, 24 February 2008

Quins tame the Wildcats

Harlequins Rugby League produced a comprehensive victory over Wakefield Trinity Wildcats yesterday at The Stoop, making it two wins from the first three rounds of Super League.

The home side were made to work hard for their victory, the opening twenty minutes of the first half saw a burst of points scoring, a Scott Grix try handed Wakefield an early lead, but shortly after Scott Hill brushed through some weak defence to open the Quins account.

A smart piece of play from hooker Chad Randall put centre Matt Gafa away for the next Quins try, but the good work was undone when the Wildcats found a massive hole in the middle of the Quins defence for Sam Obst, who had come on early for injured hooker Brad Drew, to burst through.

The final twenty minutes of the half saw Quins soak up consistent pressure from the visitors, and were fortunate enough to survive a close scare when powerful centre Ryan Atkins grounded the ball short of the line after Rikki Sheriffe failed to diffuse a towering bomb. The Wildcats bad luck was only to get worse, with former London Broncos centre Tony Martin and skipper Jason Demetriou joining Drew on the sidelines.

Despite the set backs Wakefield started the second-half strongly, utilising the offload to stretch the Quins defence and pick up some easy yards. Jamie Rooney came close to scoring with a surging run, only to find himself pulled down short by the impressive Mark McLinden. But a quick play the ball saw young back-rower Brett Ferres push off some sloppy marker defence to power over.

At 10 – 18 down Quins finally began the fight back; McLinden put centre David Howell in, only to see the effort ruled out for an imaginary forward pass. But the wrong was soon cancelled out when a minute later Kevin Henderson botched a scrum play in front of his own sticks and Chad Randall reacted fastest to poach the try. The lead swung back to Quins when Sheriffe capitalised on opposite number Luke George’s failure to deal with a bomb.

A try from Henry Paul, who ran himself into the ground in defence, put clear space between the two sides. Wakefield were beginning to run out of steam, with the first half injuries restricting them to just one fit interchange player. With a cushion now opened up the Quins had the opportunity to take a few chances, Gafa’s off the cuff kick behind the defence, bounced kindly allowing him to pass inside to Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook who raced away from the flagging Wildcats defence to cap the win.

Coach Brian McDermott will no doubt be impressed by the gritty determination of his side for the second week in a row. Loose forward Paul and prop Danny Ward in particular produced fine performances in both attack and defence. A big concern will be the injury to standoff Hill, who was forced off for the second consecutive game following heavy hits. The former Kangaroo has been growing in influence this term, following a first season with the club subdued by injury and illness.

Critics have predictably raised the issue of crowds as a late kick off, television coverage, the Six Nations and Wakefield’s smaller away support saw the gate drop from over 8,000 against Wigan to just over 3,000 yesterday. However, given the combination of negative factors, the club will probably be thankful that Sky chose to televise a game against a side with a more modest away following, as the potential loss of gate receipts would be much more significant against one of the bigger sides such as Wigan, Leeds or Saints.

Cynics may also question the decision of Sky Sports Boots ‘n’ All programme to use this particular game for it’s preview of 2008 license applications. The combination of factors for this particular game offering a perfect showcase for a predictable, rote like, “journalism by numbers” feature in which Quins gain credit for facilities and development work but get marked down weak crowds. Whether such sloppy regurgitation will actually guide the editorial is yet to be seen, but the odds in favour of it are likely to be very short.

Harlequins RL: 34 (10)
Tries: Hill, Gafa, Randall, Sheriffe, Paul, McCarthy-Scarsbrook
Goals: Purdham 5

Wakefield Trinity Wildcats: 18 (12)
Tries: Grix, Obst, Ferres
Goals: Brough 3

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Dons double up on Skolars

Doncaster pulled off their second win in two weeks against London Skolars yesterday, in the return leg of their Northern Rail Cup match-up.

A full report is here.

London Skolars: (4) 22
Tries: Miller, Gibbons, Thorman, Kerr
Goals: Thorman 3

Doncaster: (18) 36
Tries: Brown 2, Cook, Lawton, Lawrie, Woods
Goals: Crook 6

Monday, 18 February 2008

Quins flood Hull FC

Harlequins RL bounced back from their opening weekend defeat by Wigan with a comprehensive win over Hull FC at the KC Stadium yesterday afternoon.

A match report is available here.

Hull FC: (0) 6
Tries: Berrigan
Goals: Tickle

Harlequins RL: (14) 24
Tries: Purdham, Howell, Gafa 2, Randall

Goals: Purdham 2

Monday, 11 February 2008

Skolars push Crusaders hard

London Skolars first home game of the Northern Rail Cup ended in defeat to last years National League Two champions Celtic Crusaders. The Skolars pushed the visitors hard, in a game that featured appearances from Quins RL players Dwayne Barker and Tony Clubb, both on a short-term loan arrangement between the London clubs.

A match report is here.

London Skolars: (4) 10
Tries: Nowland, Coleman
Goals: Thorman

Celtic Crusaders: (16) 26
Tries: Hannay 2, Quinn, James, Dyer
Goals: Quinn, Van Dijk 2

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Quins collapse flatters Warriors

A collapse in the final thirty minutes saw Harlequins RL hand the advantage, and a flattering final score, to Wigan in yesterday’s season opener at The Stoop. A crowd of over 8000 saw the home side start brightly with Matt Gafa scoring thr first try after just three minutes, Danny Orr quickest to react to a Wigan error drew the defence and put the big winger away.

Wigan hit back with a try from centre Darrell Goulding and Pat Richards tagged on the conversion plus a couple of penalties to give the visitors a 6 point advantage with twenty five minutes gone.

Mark McLinden popped up with a spectacular try three minutes later, and Henry Paul added the extra two points to square things. A try from Michael McIllorum was cancelled out by a Scott Hill effort, with Richards and Paul trading conversions, leaving the score at 16 a piece going in to half-time.

Quins came out of the break firing, a try and two goals for Paul firmly handing them the initiative and when the impressive Matt Gafa added a second try on fifty minutes they appeared to be cruising to victory. However as happened so many times last season the team’s fragility didn’t take long to be exposed Harrison Hansen shrugged off some weak defence to score the try that sparked the comeback. The impressive Goulding added his second try, and when Iafeta Paleaaesina drove over with a typical block busting run the game had firmly swung to Wigan’s favour.

When McIllorum added his second try five minutes from time the result was inevitable, although the unusually quiet Trent Barrett added a drop-goal shortly afterwards to make sure. New Warriors fullback Richie Mathers benefited from some dubious officiating for the final try of the game, hooker Mickey Higham made a smart break only to be tackled short, but with the referee was caught up in back play he popped the ball inside to Mathers instead of playing it.

The incident was symptomatic of referee Gareth Hewer’s game, the official who usually controls National League matches struggled with the ruck areas, frequently retreating before the tackle had completed resulting in a number of calls which appeared to be little more than guesses. Unfortunatley for Quins these “50/50 calls” had a habit of favouring their opponents.

Quins coach Brian McDermott can take encouragement from the way his side competed for the first hour, but the capitulation in the closing stages does not bode well. Debutants Gareth Haggerty and Danny Ward both produced encouraging performances, whilst Scott Hill and Danny Orr looked to be finding some understanding in the halves, it was however captain Rob Purdham and winger Matt Gafa who produced the most notable performances.

Harlequins RL: (16) 28
Tries: Gafa 2, McLinden, Hill, Paul
Goals: Paul 4

Wigan Warriors: (16) 47
Tries: Goulding 2, McIlorum 2, Hansen, Paleaaesina, Mathers
Goals: Richards 9 Drop Goals: Barrett

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Fans forum highlights

Harlequins RL fans who attended last nights Fans Forum at The Stoop were told that over 1,200 season tickets have so far been sold for the new season, with a bumper crowd expected for the opening game against Wigan on Saturday.

Assistant coach Rob Powell spoke encouragingly about the development of the academy set-up, and confirmed that the reserve team (formerly the senior academy side) will be playing a number of games before the main event on match days.

The first team will be playing in the new away strip on Saturday, although the new home replica kit has arrived from manufacturers Kooga and should be available for sale in the shop.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Skolars take a lesson from Dons

London Skolars opened their Northern Rail Cup campaign yesterday with a defeat away at fellow National League Two side Doncaster.

A match report can be found here.

Doncaster: (12) 32
Tries: Bauer, Hart, Benson 2, J Brown, Gale
Goals: Crook 3, Gale

London Skolars: (6) 10
Tries: Chan
Goals: Thorman