Quins survived a late scare to gain a point against Salford on Saturday evening after allowing the Reds to claw their way back from what was at one stage a fourteen point lead.
The home side started the game strongly, showing good line speed in defence and quick movement of play in attack, which left Salford looking sluggish by comparison. It took only eight minutes to register the first try; Danny Orr’s superb chip kick beating the Salford defence with centre Tyrone Smith coolly collecting to record his first four points of the campaign. Paul Sykes missed the conversion in what was to be a poor night with the boot.
Three minutes later Chris Melling, who has established himself as first choice fullback in Mark McLinden’s absence, took advantage of some weak Salford defending to score the second try. Again, Sykes was unable to convert, although he was to make amends on seventeen minutes when he went in for the third try. Sustained pressure from Quins saw the Salford defence fail to react quickly enough to good ball movement, opening up the space for Skyes to go through, this time he was on target with the conversion.
With less than five minutes to go to halftime, Salford finally registered their first try with John Wilshere going in at the corner on Quins right hand flank, with David Hodgson coolly slotting over the conversion from the touchline. Just minutes later on the stroke of half-time Salford scored again, with Luke Robinson going over after orchestrating a passage of play which saw the ball kept alive, exploiting a loss of concentration in the Quins defence. This time Hodgson was unable to add the conversion.
The second-half started in similar fashion to the first, with Quins out of the blocks fastest. Julien Rinaldi picked up his first try for the club in controversial circumstances, with video referee Ashley Klein ruling that what had initially appeared to be a clear double movement was legitimate due to the Salford defenders rolling off the Quins hooker. However, if Rinaldi’s try was dubious then things evened themselves up shortly afterwards when a Karl Temata’s effort was ruled out by Mr Klein on what was a debateable obstruction decision.
At 18 – 10 up it looked as if Quins were heading towards their first home win of the season, but credit must go to the Salford side which refused to give up the cause and rallied for a strong finish. With six minutes to go Great Britain tourist Andy Coley’s powerful running took advantage of some weak defence again on Quins right hand flank to go in at the corner, closing the gap to four points and leaving the home fans fearing an all too predictable collapse.
With around a minute to go those fears were almost realised when Reds prop Michael Korkidas took a short tap penalty and showed terrific upper body strength to power over for what looked a soft try. Closer inspection from the video referee saw a benefit of the doubt try awarded after footage was unable to show conclusively whether Korkidas had grounded the ball or if he’d been held up. This left the scores balanced precariously at 18 – 18 with Reds kicker Hodgson poised to snatch what had seemed at one stage an unlikely victory. Fortunately for Quins Hodgson’s aim was off and they were to escape with a share of the spoils, leaving fans with mixed emotions about a game which Quins should have won, but very nearly lost.
When Brian McDermott and his team review the tape this week they will no doubt see both positive and negative points to take out of this performance. As a team movement in both defence and attack is showing the benefit of Billy Peden’s fitness regime, Danny Orr and Scott Hill continue to develop as an effective partnership, Chris Melling has slotted comfortably into the fullback role, Rinaldi offers the ability to mix-up play used as an interchange and the pack is showing plenty of dominance. Salford did however expose a tendency to switch of late in each half, with the right hand side of defence showing signs of weakness, whilst the place kicking may need some attention as Sykes missed conversions proved ultimately to be the difference between one point and two.
There is much for Quins fans to be upbeat about going into this weekend’s game away at Super League new boys Hull Kingston Rovers, in recent years the team has displayed mixed form early season, so three points from four available can be considered a solid start to what has so far been an unpredictable first two rounds to the competition overall. The high profile off-season signings are integrating better than anyone could have expected at this stage and the team is now unbeaten at home in six Super League matches.
Harlequins RL: (14) 18
Tries: Smith, Melling, Sykes, Rinaldi
Salford: (10) 18
Tries: Wilshere, Robinson, Coley, Korkidas