Harlequins Secure Scrappy Win Over Gloucester

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 09: Marland Yarde of Harlequins celebrates a try with team mates during the Aviva Premiership match between Harlequins and Gloucester Rugby at Twickenham Stoop on September 9, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

Gloucester failed to match the hype of last Friday’s success over Exeter as Harlequins secured their first win of the campaign without getting out of third gear.

On a landmark day for Mike Brown, the Quins fullback surpassed Nick Easter’s appearance record for the London club, he helped his side to three tries at the Stoop.

He supplied the pass for Marland Yarde to cross late on and seal the victory after Dave Ward and Charlie Walker had scored before the interval.

Freddie Clarke gave the Cherry and whites some hope early in the second half when he crossed, albeit in debatable circumstances with their being a hint of a knock on, before replacement Jacob Rowan crossed with the clock in the red to give Gloucester a quiet last word.

Ruan Ackermann believed ‘intensity’ was the point of difference between this performance and that of eight days ago at Kingsholm, but nevertheless was keen to learn from the experience as he beds himself in to the English game.

A Look Into The Future 

Demetri Catrakilis started at 10 for Harlequins but lasted less than ten minutes after receiving a blow to the throat thus causing him breathing problems.

With care for the fly-half’s wellbeing of optimum concern he was replaced by the young prodigy Marcus Smith who, despite having only played a handful of Premiership games, already has his name in England’s pecking order.

It was clear to see why Eddie Jones thinks so much of the youngster. After initially sending his first kick wide of the post he grew in stature and his game management was immediately evident.

He cut the Gloucester defence open when first he swivelled, then shimmied, before sending Walker through a gap on the halfway line. After the attack broke down a little over five metres from the try line, Harlequins quickly recycled to send Walker through unchallenged.

Walker received the rapturous cheers as the rain pummelled down in south London, but it was Smith who orchestrated the score. He continued to pull his forwards into positions which helped him dictate play and, even at his tender age, gave off the impression that it was he who was running the show.

Ackermann Brought Down To Earth

The South African clearly had an effect when Gloucester toppled the champions on the season’s opening night, but Gloucester looked a shadow of that side in their loss to Harlequins.

Allowances have to be made of course: Kingsholm is a notoriously hard place to travel and Gloucester feed in the Shed’s energy so it’s unrealistic to expect a repeat performance.

Ackermann was clearly disappointed with his side’s application against a Harlequins side that, despite fielding three former Lions along with several other internationals, didn’t play anywhere near their best in a scrappy affair.

Whilst victory over Exeter was the best possible start, it invariably makes their head coach’s job that more difficult. Given his success in South Africa with the Lions he has arrived with high expectations. Managing those with, no disrespect to Gloucester, a side that is far inferior to the side he left looks as tough a challenge as anything on the field.

The turnaround he performed in South Africa elevated his stature within the game, but the Lions environment is as unique as they come in rugby. Like any coach he has and wants to repeat success at another club to prove he is the real deal.

A Word On The Record Breaker

Mike Brown made his first appearance for Harlequins 12 years ago against Doncaster in the old National One.

A premiership triumph, several Six Nations and a cemented England 15 shirt later Brown can be proud of his work over the last decade or so. It was clear from the atmosphere at Harlequins yesterday that he is hugely admired by the home fans.

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Question marks surround his future just over the road at Twickenham where his England position looks to be in jeopardy. Now north of thirty, Brown is a doubt for the World Cup in two years time in Japan. The emergence of Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly, who both have more of the skills Eddie Jones desires in their armoury, has put pressure on the Harlequins fullback.

England’s 2017 round of Autumn Internationals is not far away, but with the Six Nations just under six months away, Brown may be heading into the twilight of his time in an England shirt. Regardless, Brown has his name etched into the Harlequins hall of fame and that is no easy feat, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Main Photo Credit:

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