House of Payne: Harlequins prove they are no longer just fancy Dans
2:00pm Friday 22nd February 2013 in Sport
Harlequins’ historic reputation over the years has been for being rugby’s fancy Dans, writes John Payne.
Never short of a star name or two, unstoppable on their day and perhaps displaying a superiority complex that belied a pretty bare trophy cabinet.
If anyone thinks those stereotypes still apply to Conor O’Shea’s Quins, they clearly didn’t watch Saturday’s gripping 25-21 victory over Leicester Tigers.
The East Midlands outfit have had their fair share of quality players of course, but their place on the pedestal of English rugby has been based on a win-at-all-costs mentality.
Eight consecutive Premiership finals and five Heineken Cup appearances show that Leicester remain the Manchester United of the sport – unquestionably the team to beat.
Like United under Sir Alex Ferguson, Tigers are notoriously sore losers, so when they lost a thrilling Premiership final to Quins last season, they will have been determined to set the record straight this season.
Instead, having won at Welford Road earlier in the season, Quins have completed a league double over Leicester.
And the fact they achieved it on Saturday, despite being outscored by two tries to one, and in the absence of talisman Nick Evans, really has raised the bar at the top of the club game.
His replacement Ben Botica’s 100 per cent kicking record was key to victory, in addition to Danny Care’s opportunist try. It was a match that, historically, Quins simply wouldn’t have won.
Of course, the key to any champion side is to get positive results every week – not just in the glamour games – and tonight’s (Friday’s) visit to rejuvenated bottom side Sale Sharks is likely to be just as difficult in its own way.
And the challenges are going to come thick and fast in the remaining weeks of the season, with a mouthwatering home Heineken Cup quarter-final with Munster next month to look forward to.
You just get the feeling that, if Quins are to retain their Premiership title, they will have to beat Leicester again at some point in the play-offs.
They’ve proved they can do it by playing scintillating rugby or by ‘winning ugly’. They won’t be the first team Tigers fancy coming up against.