Monday 11 December 2017

Williams to the fore on Quins' day of redemption

Harlequins 30 Leicester 23

Mick Cleary at Twickenham

It is but a short stroll from the Stoop to Twickenham, but it has been a long, chastening journey from where the ham-fisted, inexcusable antics of 'Bloodgate' took place three years ago to where Harlequins lifted the Aviva Premiership trophy for the first time in their history on a benign Saturday evening.

As Chris Robshaw took the salute of a jubilant Harlequins contingent, he was one of several who could reflect on just how the club have moved on from being the leper in rugby's flock to being the toast of the land.

His own odyssey has taken in rejection for England's World Cup squad to being a new-age hero for club and country, his try early in the second half contributing to his Man-of-the-Match award.

It was payback time, too, for the disgraced scrum-half Danny Care, as well as the try-scoring wing Tom Williams, the man who bit into the fake blood capsule and covered himself and his club in a stain that took so long to cleanse.

vibrancy

The acclaim was well-merited, for Quins have led the league since the third week of the season and while rugby is a sport of many shades, where you are entitled to seek victory in whatever style, it has been refreshing to see vibrancy and intelligence rewarded.

Leicester played a full part in a captivating final, with verve and nerve at every turn, but there was an energy and purpose to Harlequins' approach that was not to be denied. It was fitting reward for their travails along that road to redemption.

It was a triumph of the collective, shaped by director of rugby Conor O'Shea, but more than ably assisted by the long-standing, understated coaches John Kingston and Collin Osborne. They deserve their bow.

Players, too, such as Robshaw, No 8 Nick Easter, and the highly influential Kiwi fly-half Nick Evans, have played key roles.

Evans forsook a career understudying All Black Dan Carter to seek glory elsewhere. No wonder he had a warm, satisfied smile on his face on Saturday night.

He has been the best of signings, a true competitor, unflashy but razor sharp in his decision-making and execution and a haul of 20 points was his yield at Twickenham.

Care and Williams were both were significant figures on Saturday. Care was the architect of victory with his relentless probing and shrewd choices.

Much as he would not have wished to let himself down with his various drink-related offences, he has emerged not only a wiser man but also a better player. He is very much in the mix to start for England against the Springboks in a fortnight's time in Durban. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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