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New-look Quins off to flying start

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George Riley George Riley | 10:23 UK time, Thursday, 17 March 2011

So many big rugby league stories this week - and most of them negative. Chief among them have been Kyle Eastmond's suspension by St Helens and the investigation by Leeds Rhinos into alleged comments by Ryan Bailey. I will touch on those in a bit but I would rather start by applauding Harlequins.

With a rookie coach attempting to fill the boots of Brian McDermott and having lost chief playmaker Danny Orr and top young talents Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Will Sharp at the end of last season, Quins, who remain a target for their poor home crowds, are proving one of the surprise success stories in the first few weeks of the season.

Rob Powell's men have stunned both Leeds and St Helens away from home, winning four of their first five games in Super League XVI to stand fourth in the table. The introduction of the league's youngest coach - Powell is only 30 - was a gamble but looks to be paying off. He seems to have breathed new life into the Quins dressing room, while the players definitely appear to have a fresh spring in their step.

I saw Quins suffer their only defeat of the season so far a couple of weeks ago. Even after a pretty convincing loss - they were beaten 18-10 at home by Huddersfield Giants - the atmosphere in the players' bar afterwards was positive. Powell certainly did not seem too downcast as he chatted with players, club officials and fans.

HarlequinsHarlequins have won four of their first five games in this season's Super League

I grabbed a couple of hours in a west London pub with Quins captain Rob Purdham this week. I should point out that there was only one man having a pint - and it wasn't the dedicated England international celebrating his testimonial year. Purdham reckons the club's bright start can, in many ways, be attributed to the sharpness amongst the half-backs and the decision to move Australian stand-off Luke Dorn back to full-back following the return of Ben Jones-Bishop to Leeds.

"Don't tell Dorny because his head is big enough but he's on fire at the moment," said Purdham. "Moving him to full-back is a masterstroke because he runs such dangerous lines that defences are really struggling to pick him up. Having him playing sweeper for us defensively has given everyone a lift, too, because we know we're in safe hands."

Purdham went even further in his praise of his team-mate.

"The way Luke is playing at the moment reminds me of a lot of Sam Tomkins at Wigan," he said. "Tomkins is far more dangerous at full-back than at six because he can step into the line at will. That completely confuses defences."

Purdham is quick to highlight the work of others, too.

"I thought we may miss Danny Orr's leadership in the halves but the fact that we haven't is testament to the job Luke Gale, Andy Ellis and Chad Randall are doing," he said. "We look dangerous every time those guys have the ball in hand."

Purdham has been handed a testimonial year by Quins following 10 years of dedication to London rugby league. He tells me that Dorn is taking one of his planned events - a pro-celebrity golf day - very seriously.

"Dorny doesn't play much golf but he fancies himself and has started playing a bit with Chad," he told me. "He shelled out £700 on a whole new set of clubs this week - drivers, wedges, putters, the lot! Sounds like a case of all the gear, no idea!"

Purdham has been orchestrating the club's impressive start to the season while having to deal with renewed media interest in his family following the opening of the inquest into the Cumbria killings. His brother, Garry, was one of the victims on that tragic day. Purdham feels the killer should neither be named nor talked about and would rather the media interest and publicity went away.

Super League news elsewhere this week has again been dominated by Eastmond following his suspension by St Helens pending an investigation into "serious misconduct". Whatever happens, the prospect of the 21-year-old scrum-half seeing out the remainder of his Saints contract following his decision to switch codes at the end of the season would appear to be diminishing by the day.

On the face of it, the Bailey story would appear more unsavoury, with Leeds promising a full internal inquiry into comments allegedly made by the prop forward on social-networking site Facebook about the Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Let's finish on a brighter note - and Sunday's draw for the fourth round of the Carnegie Challenge Cup. This is when the big boys come into the competition - akin to the FA Cup third round - so it is a chance for some of the less glamorous clubs in the game to land themselves a romantic tie against the likes of Wigan, Warrington or Wakefield.

I am currently working on my own ball-handling skills having been asked to draw the balls out of the bag with former Great Britain, Wigan and Crusaders coach Brian Noble. We will have the draw live on BBC Radio 5 live on Sunday at 1330 GMT. There will reaction with various coaches until 1400 GMT, so I hope you can join us.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Nice Blog George - would be nice if we could dwell on some of the positive bits in the game.

    Looking forward to the draw - predictions include embarrassing loss by Salford to a lower league side, Wiggin vs St Helens and a home draw for Leeds Rhinos.

    Note of caution for the draw: don't burn yourself on that superheated Rhino ball

  • Comment number 2.

    Aside from internationals, I can't remember the last time I saw a rugby match where one of the teams was not wearing a pink/fluorescent/multicoloured strip.

    We get the message guys - you're all so comfortable with your heterosexuality that wearing a bright pink strip doesn't make you bat an eyelid. Wonderful, you've certainly proved what men you are.

    If you really want to make a statement why don't you start adding some frilly bits around the collar and sleeves? Wouldn't a skirt be much more comfortable out there? Perhaps Lady Gaga can design next year's Harlequin's strip?

    Honestly, I find this trend embarrassing and the sooner it's dropped the better.

  • Comment number 3.

    I was at the Quins v Giants game, and we were beaten by the better team. However, it's GREAT that the Quins RL are doing well, that more and more youngsters are playing Rugby League in the South East, and that we have some Londoners in the England RL squad.

    Hopefully, this will spark some interest from the London media in the sport and in the Quins. Larger crowds are more likely to come from success and more press coverage, so these wins are much needed. AFAIK, there's only one professional Rugby Union team playing in Greater London, so we should dismiss this idea that there's so much profession rugby in London that Quins RL should give up.

    The problem in the past for the Quins has been a lack of strength in depth. A few injuries can wreck the team's performance. With a lot of young players blooded last season, hopefully they'll do well as and when they're asked to play.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good article George and it is great to hear positive things about League in London.....just waiting for the northerners to start the mocking of the crowds again! That being said, if we carry on like this, people will come, end of story! :-)

    Massive respect to Rob Powell, what a fantatsic start to his first year as Head Coach! He talks a lot of sense and has managed to keep the squad fit during pre-season which has helped (although not going to Army bases in freezing conditions is probably the reason Brian McDermott!!!) I was always sceptical about Mac, he came out with a load of nonsense half the time and I think he will be found out at Leeds as there is no hiding place there!

    BTW, any chance we could bring back 606??

  • Comment number 5.

    @ralphanderson

    Clearly the missing link! Stop dragging your knuckles - its a charity kit!
    Its to do with Cancer, which usually use pink as a colour.
    Maybe clue up on the facts before you spout off.

  • Comment number 6.

    The missing link indeed!

    Charity kit it may be in this case; but the thrust of my point still stands, manikochar - the current proliferation of gaudy kits is a rather pathetic spectacle.

  • Comment number 7.

    Rob Powell might be a rookie but I sure hope he isn't "trying to fill the boots of McDermott". Early signs are that we will be a much better organised and much better motivated team under Rob's leadership.

  • Comment number 8.

    @Ralphanderson

    The thrust of your point is mystifying!
    You have a go at a club wearing Pink (for a good cause), yet continue to say there is a "proliferation of gaudy kits" which signifies they are "comfortable with their heterosexuality".

    Yet offer no examples of such kits - so go ahead, list away.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think you may have jinxed them somewhat George!

  • Comment number 11.

    Must be quite tempted to take this down now George?

  • Comment number 12.

    Touch of death eh, George...

  • Comment number 13.

    A good piece but a little hasty. Quins will finish in the top half of the league this year but I can't see them truly challenging for any trophies. They won't get 82 put past them again but I can see some wallopings from the big oys, especially away from home.

 

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