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More cards than Clintons......

Saturday’s game was a must win for Quins who picked their full fighting weight team, regardless of their trip to Toulouse next weekend.

If they were to lose to Saints and Bristol carve out a win at Pooh Corner then their Premiership hopes would be dead in the water.

Dowse and the Saints coaching team were all about rotation, however, with key players rested or given extra time to recover from niggles and knocks.

The trip down was very jolly with two coach loads of supporters on the Supporters Club coaches enhanced by the presence of Paul Hill and Craig White on Coach one and George Hendy and Ewan Baker on Coach two. Coach one had an impromptu concert from the talented England U20’s hooker White whilst George and Ewan quizzed each other with a Q and A session on Coach two.

I’d like to say I was quietly confident but I wasn’t. I was filled with a sense of doom, particularly when I learned who was going to be in charge. I’m sure Karl Dickson is a smashing chap but things seem to go horribly  wrong for everyone when he has to officiate a Saints’ game, add into the mix this fixture involved his old employers Harlequins and I had a very bad feeling.

And I was right. In a game where some sublime rugby was played, particularly by Quins, all the focus is on reffing decisions again. They have been discussed and done to death by now but, for what it’s worth, I was sure it was a foot that brought the ball forward not Mitch’s hand and Care should have had the second yellow.

The whole experience at Twickenham was, in my opinion, thoroughly unpleasant. I often feel that I am getting old but after Saturday there is no doubt in my mind because all I kept thinking was “Why must it be so loud?”

The announcer “bigged up” Quins to the extent that he could barely mention the opposition and at one point called us Southampton – which is either unforgivable ignorance or unforgiveable rudeness.

The Quins supporters sitting either side of us were lovely (they found it too loud too) but further along the row were a couple of chaps who must have had their seats at half price because they were only in them for half the time as they ambled back and forth to the bar and, presumably, the Gents.

Onto the game itself. Saints seemed nervy at the start, almost as if they were trying too hard. It’s something we have seen before in the opening quarter to I wasn’t excessively worried. And Saints were pressing in the Quins half when a loose ball from a ruck saw Quins move up field and an exquisite pin-point accurate kick from Marcus Smith put Luke Northmore over for the opening score.

Danny Care then committed his first obvious sin of the game with an upright tackle on Courtney. He must have not only been upright but also on tip-toes because he managed to make head on head contact with Lawes and off he went for a sit down.

It made no odds for Saints thought as they failed to make use of the extra man and the veteran scrum half returned to the pitch with the score the same as when he had left.

Then we had a moment of Saints doing Saintly things from deep. Tom Litchfield went on an uncompromising run down the wing putting in a neat kick ahead which Ollie Sleightholme gathered and scored. Fin Smith’s conversion took them into the lead and things looked more promising.

Then he extended the lead with a penalty kick from just within the half –beautifully struck. But Quins struck back another Northmore try from a lineout. The other Smith was on target with the conversion this time and Quins were 12-10 ahead.

Quins got another yellow for a deliberate knock on as Saints were within touching distance of the line – Mr Dickson thought that Freeman could have been tackled if he had received the ball so no penalty try – has he not watched Tommy Freeman this season? The Saintly Smith knocked over the penalty – with the gift of hindsight  a kick to touch might have been a better option, but we were back ahead.

Quins did kick for the corner when they got a penalty and were rewarded with a try from close range.

Mr Dickson’s first intervention came just on the point of half time when Sam Graham appeared to have scored a try with an athletic reach for the line. Saintly Smith safely converted but the TMO and KD decided the ball had been knocked forward by Mitch, so it was chalked off.

Quins burst out of the blocks at the beginning of the second half to get their bonus point try but Saints struck back with a try under the posts from James Ramm. Another deliberate knock on (do they practice them) and another yellow card for Quins eventually led to Tom Litchfield forcing his way over for a try. Two conversions from Our Smith put Saints back into the lead with one point.

In the midst of this came the Danny Care incident when he should have seen a second yellow leading to a red. He didn’t but he was replaced and to add insult to injury his replacement Porter scored two well-worked tries.

The long arm of the Lawes ensured that we left London with a try bonus point and just as it seemed we may have two in the bag a penalty to Quins saw them take it out of our grasp.

A frustrating afternoon all round, more than one of us probably had a headache at the end of it. Here’s hoping that Ollie Sleights not returning to the pitch after an HIA was precautionary rather than necessary and the Lewis Ludlam’s injury isn’t long term.

Upwards and onwards to Croke Park next week and a game against (practically) the Irish national team. Let’s just go and play Our Game and let them have to deal with it.

Photographs from Saturday, as ever, provided by Red Hat Photography. And to see and or hear Photographer Claire and your correspondent talking things Saintly rugby – have a listen to Ladies Wot Pod or on Youtube.

And if you want to see posts and discussions from fellow Saints’ fans hop over to Saints Sinners on Facebook.


Here I go again - top try scorer Ollie Sleightholme adds to his tally at Twickers


Skipper Lewis Ludlam - above and below - giving it his all.


This Courtney canter nearly got him over the line but he was on hand later to get the bonus point try


He comes from a Land down under...and can't stop scoring...Rambo in for another


Just what you want as a defending full-back - Rambo, Freemo and Furbs cutting loose


Juarno Augustus - a  force of nature and Karl Dickson, looking confused.....

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