Harlequins are facing a pair of crunch games in the next three weeks if they are to make the Premiership top four and stay in the fight for a third top-flight title.
After defending champions Leicester Tigers crushed Exeter Chiefs 62-19 yesterday in a match Chris Ashton that saw notch up his 99th, 100th and 101st Premiership tries, Harlequins finished the weekend seven points off the playoff spots.
But with five points between them in sixth and London Irish in fifth, and a further two to Northampton Saints in fourth, the south-west Londoners have a battle on their hands.
Harlequins rut of form
They host Bath this Saturday in one of their showpiece games at Twickenham Stadium before concluding their season away to the Tigers in a match where the host team in round 24 could be looking to secure a home semi-final.
Nothing short of two wins gives Harlequins a shot, and even that might not be enough for them.
Given Tabai Matson’s side impressed against Newcastle at the weekend, winning 48-20 at the Stoop, it could be argued they are showing a hint of the mojo that saw them win the Premiership in 2021.
But look further back and you’ll find a rotten record of just one Premiership win – against Exeter Chiefs – in seven matches.
They’ve lost close battles and been pummelled by their opposition; there’s been little to no consistency, even in their losses.
But in the year they last won the title, Harlequins finished fourth to secure a spot in the semi-finals only to win away to Bristol Bears and then triumph at Twickenham.
Rabbit out of a hat
The side therefore have history in pulling a rabbit out of the hat, and they will need to do the same this year – but from much further out.
They have the quality and the depth, and even the psychological urge to win something for their departing players, who include Joe Marchant and Wilco Louw.
But in the Premiership, where their rivals are better placed to reach the postseason, Harlequins might need to pull the drawbridge up on their attacking style of play and approach each match as a cup final, playing the game in front of them and building a score.
After Saturday’s win, Matson said the score flattered his side, and he was right. They weren’t at the races, despite the result.
Harlequins are a side that have proved that an expansive, scintillating style of rugby can win trophies, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have versatility too.
This weekend against a resurgent Bath they’ll need a solid bonus point win along with a healthy boost to their points difference – currently just +2 – before taking on the champions in their own back yard.
It’s been a long old season for every club, but for Quins the coming three weeks will feel even longer. They need to win, and that’s no easy feat in this league, but they’ll also need to rely on others. It’s out of their hands.