Robshaw hopes Quins title will be boost for Bok series
England captain Chris Robshaw completed the first leg of what he hopes will be a perfect personal summer double by leading Harlequins to a first English title on Saturday with a 30-23 win over Leicester in the final.
After scoring one of his side’s two tries, and leading from the front, the whole-hearted flanker will now turn his sights to tackling the mighty Springboks next month in South Africa.
Robshaw was named man of the match and Tom Williams, the player involved in the controversial Bloodgate scandal three years ago which rocked English rugby, grabbed the other crucial score.
New Zealand-born fly-half Nick Evans was foot perfect with 20 points as Quins upset the odds and beat a Tigers outfit which started favourites in their eighth successful Twickenham final.
Quins, who were formed 146 years ago, thrived in the roasting heat, leading the game for most of the time and showing they deserved the trophy after finishing the normal season at the top of the table.
“We may have been underdogs in most eyes but not in ours. We were confident we could finish the job off in style — and that’s what we have done,” said Robshaw.
“All the boys deserved the credit. I just did my bit. It was a fantastic team effort with commitment and desire.
“This is the perfect way for me and the other Quins lads involved in the England squad to fly off to South Africa. It just makes you want to carry on playing rugby and winning games.
“This has been our dream for a long time,and it has been a long time coming. But it feels wonderful.”
Tigers’ tries came from Steve Mafi and Anthony Allen, and 13 points from the boot of young England hopeful George Ford.
But, apart from leading briefly in the first half, they were always playing catch up.
The side going for their 11th English League title were give a lesson in open, running rugby from a side capable of throwing it around and entertaining the crowd.
Scrum-half Danny Care did his chances of grabbing back the No9 jersey for the first test in Durban no harm at all.
He was as quick as lightning with superb hands and running skills. Evans was accurate with the boot, and the Quins forwards held their own.
Quins director of rugby Conor O’Shea praised Care, who has been in trouble with bans for late night drinking sessions this season.
The Irishman said: “Danny has had his problems but I am delighted with him. He was outstanding today and showed what a fine player he is. He is a great guy and now things can be put behind him.”
“This must only be a start of our success.”
Manu Tuilagi was lucky to escape a possible yellow card when upending Care in the opening minute with a hefty tackle that was bordering on dangerous.
Evans struck the outside of a post with a penalty attempt — a difficult one from near the right-hand touchline after an illegal Tigers’ hand in a ruck.
But Care picked himself up to help set up wing Williams to run in the first try — and real joy for a player left mentally scarred by that dark day when his substitution led to Bloodgate erupting and then coach Dean Richards being pushed into the rugby wilderness as a result.
Ford, 19, relishing the chance to prove himself on England’s forthcoming tour to South Africa, kicked a couple of penalties to keep Tigers in the game and then prop Dan Cole fed Mafi for a converted try which put Leicester in front.
But they then lost No8 Thomas Waldrom to the sin bin just before the break and an Evans penalty gave Quins a 14-13 half-time lead.
They never looked back as Evans’ boot and then Robshaw finishing off a move for the second try put them in a commanding 17-point lead.
The Tigers were not finished. They finished strongly with a converted Allen try and a Ford penalty but Quins had done enough to see them home.
For Williams it was the chance to finally lay to rest the ghost of Bloodgate.
“That was the lowest point of my career but this is the highest. I am just concerned with now and the future,” he said.
“The blood thing is history. Dead and buried. I have moved on and winning the title with Quins is a real dream. They don’t come much better than this experience.”
Dejected Tigers boss Richard Cockerill, whose side were playing in their eight successive final, and tasting back to back defeats having lost to Saracens last year, said: “We did not play as well as we can. We made errors and they capitalised on those mistakes.”
Cockerill said Toby Flood, who was withdrawn from the Tigers replacements before kick-off, should be fit from his ankle injury to with England to South Africa.