It was bonfire night at Welford Road but there were no fireworks from the home side. A 23-16 loss was the third straight league defeat to Harlequins at Welford Road; it was also the third straight year this game was played without internationals. The one game played when both sides were at full strength? Last year's Premiership Semi Final and a 33-16 victory for the Tigers.
The only side in the history of league rugby to have a better winning run at Welford Road is Saracens with 4, and they could add to it later this year. All those games have too been played during the internationals. Maybe PRL should take a look at their fixture lists so that we, the paying spectators, actually get to see the best v the best?
This match really swung on the ten minutes either side of half time when Quins scored 17 unanswered points. A completely baffling decision to yellow card Julian Salvi, his first ever yellow card in Tigers colours, was the spur. Personally I don't even think it warranted a penalty. Salvi is the tackler, he releases gets back to his feet and causes the Quins player to knock on. He doesn't even touch the ball himself.
But whether it was a penalty or not is immaterial, it was the first penalty inside the 22, practically the first of the whole match from the Tigers, and at no point did Quins rampaging penalty count get dealt with by the same method. The Cockney's penalty count was an astronomic 16 compared to Tigers' 8.
Yet was they who had a man advantage for for an eighth of the game.
Don't get me wrong Tigers were terrible. The half backs again failed to show any nous or play the conditions at all. The scrum and lineout went well, but it rarely translated to good territory and when it did we were clueless with the ball.
Tigers don't appear to have any tactics; we just rely on the likes of Manu and Toby Flood to create things, when they are gone we offer nothing in attack at all. Looking at the stats Hepetema might as well have not been playing. He got the ball twice, kicked it once, ran for 10 meters the other time beating no defenders before being tackled. It's not exactly Manu mk2 is it?
But the referee gave Quins a warning, then gave them another warning, then with his dirty deed done just grinned smugly knowing his London bosses would be happy with his "performance". The game probably would have been a tight penalty fest without the interference, some people will say that made it better for the neutrals but none of us are neutral are we?
To rub salt in the wounds both Quins tries were not just a bit fishy but reeked like a Friday morning in Grimsby.
The first was from a ruck which piled up. Now in my rule book when a ruck is deemed immediately unplayable it is the side in possession which gets the scrum. But oh no, it was the ref's London friends who gained the put in. After this stroke of bad luck Tigers seemed to decide fringe defence was optional as Nick "35 grand down the toilet" Easter brushed off Scott Hamilton to score by the posts. Maybe he gets a try bonus?
The second was a cracking finish by Matt Hopper but rugby has these things on a pitch called lines. They are painted on the ground and you can use them to see if a line out was straight or a pass was forward. When Luke Wallace's pass starts on one side of the 22 and finishes on the other side it has gone forward. Looking at my law book again, I know old hat, it says that a ball is not allowed to be thrown towards the opposition goal line. We even had a TMO decision! At Bath last year we lost a game on this, and again we lost a game on this.
Why bother with a TMO if they can't watch the TV in front of them?
The saving grace was the scrum which not only gained us the last minute penalty try but also one of the penalties. Why can we not be so resilient in open play? It's all well and good blaming a keystone cops refereeing performance but why couldn't we over come that? You get duff refs, watching the A-League I'm even confident in saying these clowns are the best available, why aren't we good enough to play despite them?
Our multi-phase approach is extremely reliant on referee's given us the penalties we deserve to stop the opposition slowing our ball. As we find in Europe some refs just won't play the rules and we get stymied. So why don't we work on a plan B for the fairly often occurrences of this happening?
We now break for the LV Cup which will be a blessed relief for Cockerill and his coaching team. After a bright start we have faded badly winning only one of our last 5, and that was the decidedly average Treviso at home game.
And the wind cancelled the real fireworks too. I blame the ref.
You don't win any trophies in November but you can lose them.