Thursday, 18th May 2017 @ 19:00
Part one of the review of Harlequins' 150th Anniversary season.
Following a pre-season which included a tour to San Francisco and matches at home to London Irish and Glasgow Warriors, Harlequins' 150th Anniversary season began in earnest across the A316 at Twickenham Stadium in the London Double Header.
First up were the newly promoted Bristol Rugby, armed with new signings and the attitude to make waves in the top tier of English rugby. It was the new boys that struck first when Tom Varndell picked off the loose pass to score before Tusi Pisi added another. Marland Yarde who went over, uncharactersitically from the back of a rolling maul, for the Londoners' first try of the season. Yarde worked wonders again to play in Joe Marchant who dived over for his first of ten tries of the term. Despite another Bristol try, the boot of Nick Evans was enough to hand Harlequins victory on the opening day.
Despite the opening day win, Harlequins would then suffer two losses on the road in the shape of Sale Sharks - in a physical encounter at the AJ Bell Stadium - and then to Exeter Chiefs.
It would be almost October before Harlequins would run out in front of The Stoop faithful, in a classic encounter at home to European and Premiership champions Saracens. In a tight match, Harlequins came firing out of the blocks to race in to a 17-0 lead thanks to the breakway try of Tim Visser and the well worked effort of Charlie Walker, thanks in no small part to the excellent looping pass of Tim Swiel.
Mark McCall's side inevitably hit back through Richard Wigglesworth's try, but rock solid defence and the atmosphere at The Stoop helped Harlequins earn back-to-back home wins over their London rivals.
With Wasps the in-form team, as they would go on to be for most of the season, the Coventry-based side ran out emphatic 47-18 winners with Harlequins in town the following weekend.
Looking for a good performance after that defeat, Northampton Saints would be the next team at The Stoop. Despite a 12-point haul from Swiel in the 20-9 win, props Kyle Sinckler and Adam Jones who would steal the headlines, Sinckler for his hard-hitting, powerful all-court game while Jones would play 75 minutes at loosehead prop, a change of scenery for one of the greatest tightheads in the professional era.
Domestic matters were put on hold when Harlequins kicked-off the 2016/17 European Rugby season against old foes Stade Francais, a team Harlequins have had so many classic matches against. In a seven try 43-21 demolition of the Parisians (and eventual tournament winners), James Chisholm was the star of the show with two barrelling tries to help move the Londoners out of sight in their opening Pool match.
From facing the team of the French capital to the team of the Scottish capital, Harlequins were edged out in a thrilling 36-35 encounter away to Edinburgh Rugby. At BT Murrayfield, Harlequins were nine minutes away from victory in a topsy-turvy match - which saw John Kingston's side 31-14 down at half-time - but Tom Brown would have the final say on the matter to earn Edinburgh the win.
Kitted out with a new gym at their training complex in Surrey - christened with 80s fancy dress - Harlequins' focus then switched back to the Aviva Premiership.
Ahead of the autumn internationals - which saw Sinckler win his first England cap - Harlequins earnt their first try bonus point victory of the season at home to Worcester Warriors. The win over Warriors - which saw five different Harlequins try scorers - will also be remembered for Harlequins stalwart Mark Lambert making his 200th appearance in a quartered shirt.
As the opening quarter of the season came to a close, the Anglo-Welsh Cup, visit of the Maori All Blacks and Big Game 9 against Gloucester Rugby all lay on the horizon.
Don’t miss out on any of the action next season by guaranteeing your seat to all regular season home matches with a 2017/18 Harlequins membership. To find out more on purchasing a membership please click here or call the Harlequins Ticket Office on 020 8410 6010.
Harlequins fly-half Demetri Catrakilis following the 10-28 defeat to Newcastle Falcons.