Tristan Quick, Monday 09 July 2012
As I poured into Twickenham with the other Harlequins fans for the Aviva Premiership final this May, I knew that everyone associated with Harlequins knew that this was more than a final, this was our first ever Premiership final, a chance to win the trophy and write our names in history.
It was also a chance to lay the Bloodgate* event to bed, to destroy it, to redeem ourselves, especially for the likes of Tom Williams who was at the heart of Bloodgate, to create a new chapter in the Harlequins history and to start fresh. Well with a tantalizing win over Leicester they did that, they repayed their fans for sticking with them. I’m sure that other clubs fans would have lost heart, pride and wouldn’t want to be associated with them, but at Harlequins everyone is a family.
Harlequins have come so far since Bloodgate, which definitely set us back a few years, after one summer, we were minus a promising young player, a brilliant coach and a medic. We had gone from being a young, promising team who were knocking at the door of the top four to nearly having to knock on the door of relegation. But to be true the Harlequins fans didn’t expect them to be the same club as they were before immediately, due to the shadow of Bloodgate hanging over them, but we didn’t mind that we finished 8th, we knew that the Quins were just stabilising, reviving itself that first year.
In the second year with the introduction of a new coach, Connor O’Shea, we were positive, we didn’t expect trophies or finals, but that is what we got with an Amlin Cup win over Stade Français. In that 2010/11 season we also got the emergence of more young players like George Lowe, Joe Marler and Joe Gray to play in a already young team with Chris Robshaw, Jordan Turner Hall, Danny Care, Ugo Monye, Mike Brown....We had a cup but still we only finished 7th in the Premiership and we weren’t quite threatening the top teams.
The 2011/12 season was unforgettable, we saw Harlequins finally emerge as a serious threat to even the top teams in Europe, with a Heineken win over Toulouse, on their home turf, and we won the Premiership. We had a sparkling season, with a 14 match winning streak to start off the season with performances from players like Brown, Robshaw and Marler that didn’t just show that they should have been picked for the World Cup – it screamed it. They finally got their wish though in the 6 Nations with Robshaw successfully leading them to an unexpected 2nd place.
The Premiership final has showed Harlequins’ arrival as one of the most dominant teams in Europe, with Williams ridding his debt by scoring the opening try. At the time of Bloodgate we had four players in the England team, now we have seven with definitely more to come. The future is looking very bright for Harlequins.
*In a Quarter Final Heineken Cup match vs. Leinster, Harlequins needed at least a penalty - three points - to go in front and win, but you need a good kicker for a penalty and Harlequins had substituted their kicker, Nick Evans and had used all their other subs. So they used Tom Williams to bite on a blood capsule in his mouth so as to make a blood substitution, which allows the bleeding player to be taken off pitch to get them stitched up while they replace him with another player, Evans, until the bleeding player is ready to come back on. It was found that they had cheated and there were big consequences. It is the biggest example of cheating in rugby and had huge effects.
Tristan Quick is starting at Esher College in September, has been Harlequins season ticket holder for the past five years and worked at Time & Leisure for work experience.