Harlequins could be ripe for the taking
Sometimes the weather in winter can surprise. Snow in Rome almost caused England’s RBS Six Nations Championship against Italy to be called off. On the same day frost prompted the postponement of France’s match with Ireland.
Sometimes the weather in winter is entirely predictable. Heavy rain at Bath - as Gloucester found last weekend - turns the Recreation Ground into something resembling a swamp and the match into something resembling a lottery. That Gloucester managed to win - despite having most of their obvious superiority reduced by the elements - was a tribute both to the one-for-all spirit engendered by coach Bryan Redpath and his on-pitch leaders and the growing confidence of what is essentially a very young side.
Of course, there were alarms and excursions along the way. Bath took the lead with a brilliantly executed try by Tom Biggs, Cherry and White full-back Jonny May learnt some harsh lessons about handing a greasy ball under pressure and the mass brawl that disfigured the first half might have had more serious consequences.
But Gloucester refused to be distracted either by the shenanigans on the field, the supercharged atmosphere of a local derby or the burden that their appalling away record had become. A second away win of the season hoisted them right back into contention both for a Heineken Cup place next season and for a Premiership play-off place at the end of this campaign. With just one defeat in their last five Premiership outings, the Cherry and Whites would appear to be finding form at just the right time.
Which is just as well, considering that their next two matches are against the current Premiership leaders and last seasons Premiership Finalists. Harlequins are already 18 points clear of Gloucester with 7 matches to go. Leicester, who currently occupy the last of the Premiership play-off places , are currently 5 points better off than Bryan Redpath’s men. Defeat in both matches would leave Gloucester scrapping desperately just to squeeze into the Heineken Cup.
Gloucester have already played Quins three times this season - and lost the lot. They’ve conceded 90 points to the Londoners in two Heineken Cup matches either side of Christmas and a Premiership match at the Stop in September that saw them hammered by 42 points to 6. Gloucester conceded five tries in that match and another three in the Heineken Cup home leg. In fact, they’ve so far managed only 1 try against the Londoners, and it took well over 100 minutes of effort to score it.
One consolation to Gloucester is that they’re getting closer all the time. That last game was only settled in Harlequins’ favour by a lucky bounce of the ball. Another is that all three of those defeats occurred in a period when Quins were at the peak of their form. A blistering start to the Premiership season had seen them win their first ten matches in the Aviva Premiership and their first three in the Heineken Cup. But they lost 2 of their last 3 in that tournament and 2 of the last 5 in the Premiership. All of their most recent victories - including last weekend’s 16-14 win over Worcester - have been by a single score. It would seem that Quins are ripe for the taking - and Gloucester are in the right form to take them.