London Scottish on the brink of a remarkable Championship turnaround
Harlequins may have suffered a bad weekend but academy youngster Miles Mantella would have still been smiling when he reported for training this week.
Quins, who host Bath in the LV= Cup semi-finals tomorrow, crashed 27-16 at home to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday and the misery was compounded on Sunday as Saracens beat London Welsh to replace director of rugby Conor O’Shea’s men at the top of the top flight.
By contrast, near neighbours London Scottish – inspired by a Mantella brace - beat Jersey 41-33 in a nine-try Championship thriller at the Athletic Ground on Saturday that saw the visitors score five tries yet still lose.
The result puts the Exiles only seven points adrift of the promotion play-offs with five games remaining thanks to a run of five straight league wins since the turn of the year.
They had been facing up to a relegation scrap prior to Christmas, but the arrival of coaches James Buckland and Serge Betsen and the tries of Quins academy youngster Miles Mantella have them looking in the opposite direction.
The 21-year-old, who played his part In the Quins’ A League triumph earlier this season, has bagged five scores in his past four appearances.
But the Guilford-born youngster is not getting carried away with Saturday’s crunch trip to Leeds Carnegie on the horizon.
“Every game is a big one now. Leeds are a really good team and beat us down here,” he said on Saturday.
“We’ll shore up our defence during the week and go there hoping to continue our good form.
“It has been pleasing to score as I’d had a bit of a try drought. I didn’t score for a couple of games, but then got a couple of bounces of the ball go my way and scored.
“It is amazing to think where we are now. People were thinking we were in a relegation scrap and next thing you know we are safe as houses.
“You never know what might happen though. We’ve still got play lots of teams in the top four, but we’ve just got to win as many games as we can. We’re not looking too far ahead.”
Mantella’s brace plus scores from hooker Adam Kwasnicki and skipper Mark Bright gave Scottish the bonus point win to avenge a 20-17 defeat in the Channel Islands in October.
“It was the first game with the sun out and we were throwing the ball around, so there wasn’t a lot of great defence, but we are happy with the five points,” said winger Mantella.
“When we went over there last time it was a period where we weren’t playing that great or as well as we knew we could.
“We defended really well over there, but we just didn’t gel or play that well.
“But we are a different side this half of the season and we are starting to show that.”