Season Review: Harlequins
Harlequins will be hurting for a while after this Gallagher Premiership Rugby season.
To miss out on a semi-final spot after such an impressive season is a disappointment but that pain is an indicator of just how far they have come under Paul Gustard.
They ended up fifth in the standings, losing out to Northampton Saints simply by virtue of the fact that the Saints had won one more game than them.
But after last season’s tenth-place finish, optimism will soon replace the disappointment at the Stoop.
It wasn’t the ideal start to the season for Quins who, despite putting 50 points on Sale Sharks in their opener, proceeded to lose three of their first four games in the league.
But they showed a knack for picking up bonus points and that kept them firmly in touch in such a competitively crowded table.
In November they claimed possibly their best win of the season in downing Exeter Chiefs and then turned on the style.
After Christmas they went on a five-match winning run that carried them all the way through to March, downing Wasps, Newcastle Falcons, Worcester Warriors, Bristol Bears and Bath Rugby on that run.
A top four spot was theirs for the taking until a late season slump allowed Northampton Saints back into the race for fourth.
Defeats to Saracens and Gloucester Rugby were easier to accept, while plenty of good teams lost at the AJ Bell Stadium to Sale Sharks.
But the home defeat to Saints at the end of April – thanks to Alex Mitchell’s late score – was the back breaker and ended up costing them dear.
Exeter Chiefs arrived at The Stoop on a Friday night at the end of November looking to continue their unbeaten start to the league season.
But after eight wins on the spin, the Chiefs came unstuck against a revitalised Quins.
Joe Marchant was the hero with a late score while Nathan Earle also bagged a double and despite a late rally from the Chiefs, Quins held on for an impressive victory.
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) June 8, 2019
Joe Marchant finished the season with an impressive 11 league tries this season – just one behind chart toppers Denny Solomona and Cobus Reinach.
The centre made the No.13 jersey his own and it was his injury that coincided with Quins losing momentum at the back end of the season.
This Rugby World Cup will probably come too soon for the young star but expect him to be wearing the Red Rose before too long.
Joe Marler retired from international rugby at the start of the season and then gave his all to the Quins cause in the front alongside Kyle Sinckler who continued his rise to prominence as the foremost tighthead in the country.
England continued to overlook the likes of Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown but Quins benefited hugely from their experience.
No-one caught the eye more than back-row forward Alex Dombrandt.
His breakout campaign was reflected in the Quins end of season awards as well as a nomination for the league wide Land Rover Discovery of the season.
Only a year ago, the Quins back rower was a student at Cardiff Met but he ended it in an England XV, crossing for a try and standing out at Twickenham in their win over the Barbarians.
On the wings Nathan Earle and Cadan Murley look be the men for the present as well as the future, and their injuries also derailed the campaign at the end.
Who’s in for 2019/20?
There is a lot of change at Quins for next season as Gustard looks to real put his stamp on the playing squad.
🗣 "There are a lot of positive signs about where we are heading."
🤔 What are you most looking forward to next season?
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) June 7, 2019
The marquee arrivals are Argentine scrum-half Martin Landajo and Italy centre Michele Campagnaro.
On top of that, Wales hooker Scott Baldwin also arrives to replenish the front row as does another Puma in Santiago Garcia Botta.
Young flanker Will Evans from Leicester Tigers is highly-rated as is Exeter Chief Tom Lawday.
On top of that, Brett Herron and Toby Freeman join from the Championship while Simon Kerrod, Glen Young, Stephan Lewis and Luke Northmore round off the recruits.
Who’s out for 2019/20?
With a lot of new faces coming in, a lot are also headed for the exit door.
Club co-captain James Horwill has retired while wing Tim Visser and scrum-half Dave Lewis have also called it a day.
In the pack George Merrick heads for Clermont while Lewis Boyce is off to Bath, Josh Ibuanokpe to Quins and Stan South to Coventry.
Alofa Alofa is heading to Bayonne while wing Charlie Walker is off to Zebre.
And a whole host of faces have been released including Luke Wallace, Demetri Catrakilis, Dave Ward, Calum Waters, Phil Swainston, Josh McNulty, Ben Glynn and Mat Luamanu.