The Daily Mail, October 6, 1913
HOW THE HARLEQUINS BLUNDERED.
By P. G. WODEHOUSE.
Gloucester ....... 8pts. Harlequins ... 0
Of all sad words of tongue or pen the saddest are these, “What a blamed chump I’ve been!” And it is those words which, if they have any sense of shame, the Harlequin outsides muttered to themselves as they tossed on their pillows, sleepless with remorse, all Saturday night.
Heavens, that Harlequin machine, that peerless collection of brainy units working together in one magnificent whole, that fan-like formation sweeping rhythmically down the field! Where was it on Saturday? What had gone wrong with the works? Excluding Tripp, who played a good, sound game at full back, there was not one of the Harlequin outsides who did not at some period of Saturday’s game commit every known form of blunder. The dropped pass, the futile attempt to bullock through, the delayed pass, the straight punt down the field, they were all there. You could almost hear Cook chuckling as movement after movement ended in a nice, rainbow-shaped punt straight into his hands.
Gloucester won because Hamblin began to drop goals instead of passes.
The Harlequins started off with the wind behind them and had the better of some scrambling play, which ended in Lambert making a good attempt at a penalty goal from inside the Gloucester half. Gloucester touched down, and the Harlequins pressed, Stoop gaining ground from a pass by Perkins. A little less determination about the Gloucester defence and a little more determination about the Harlequin attack might have led to a try at this point; and, if that had happened, it might have formed the foundation of a long score, the Harlequins being one of those sides which need to be on top to show their best form. However, Gloucester not only proved equal to the task of keeping their line safe but for the first time showed that they were capable of dangerous attack. The forwards broke away down the field, and, the ball getting on the move among the three-quarters, Webb made a long punt which caused Tripp to touch down in a hurry.
This, combined with the fact that the Gloucester forwards were getting the ball in two out of three of the scrummages, seemed to damp the spirits of the home outsides; and Gloucester continued in the attacking vein. Webb, however, missed an easy pass at a critical moment, and Bussell dribbled back to half-way. Here another free kick was given against Gloucester, and Lambert, with a fine shot, only just failed.
THE KICK THAT FAILED.
Play now became very ragged. Both sides made forward rushes. Then Stoop with a long run put his side in a good position, but a free kick to Gloucester neutralised this and the ball returned to half-way. Lewis made a good dribble, but Tripp saved cleverly and returned. Soon after this Cook missed one of the straight punts which had been sailing in his direction at intervals since the kick-off, but Stoop dropped his pass when the Harlequins seemed likely to score. The Gloucester three-quarters, set moving by Hall, now showed the best combination seen till then in a game almost entirely free from good combination. The ball was not dropped till it came to Washbourne 0n the left wing. Tripp relieved the pressure with a clever save and kick, and a long, straight punt by Lambert caused Gloucester to touch down. Hudson stopped a forward rush and found touch neatly. The Harlequins were pressing when Gloucester were penalised for foot-up. As this happened near the “Twenty-five” line in a good position a score seemed inevitable. But Lambert’s kick, though accurate in direction, fell just short of the bar. This was the last bit of play before half-time.
Some play of the type known as “Soccer-hacking” brought the Harlequins to the visitors’ line about three minutes after the restart. A scrum was formed five yards out. It was the best chance the home team had had. The forwards had only to heel and somebody must have scored. But the forwards, brave boys, scorned to heel. They got the ball and tried to rush it through, with the result that the acute pressure on the Gloucester line was relieved and play shifted to about fifteen yards out. Here Lambert got the ball and hove it blithely into space. If there had happened to be anyone anywhere near where the ball finally came to earth I might now have been writing about the brilliant opportunism of the Harlequin three-quarter and all sorts of jolly things. As it happened, however, the nearest Harlequin was somewhere over the horizon, and a search-party, headed by Washbourne and Hamblin, located the ball, retrieved it, and sent it into touch near half-way. Among distinguished pass-droppers in the next few minutes I noticed Webb, Elmslie, Birkett, and Washbourne. But their dropped passes were as nothing to the dropped pass of pass-dropper Hamblin. Let me tell you the painful story. Lewis had got away with a splendid run. He had sold the dummy near half-way and was racing towards Tripp with Hamblin in close attendance. Short of handing Hamblin the ball on a plate with watercress round it he could have done no more. And Hamblin dropped it.
I hold it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tones,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.
So with Hamblin. A few minutes later Lewis got away again. Hamblin was there. The pass came. Hamblin, his eyes gleaming with the determination to live down the past, stuck to it like glue, and, having done so, proceeded to drop a splendid goal.
Four points down, the Harlequins were seized with a brief attack of energy. Lambert found touch with a long kick, and there was scrummaging near the Gloucester “Twenty-five” line. Cook relieved with a good kick, and the Gloucester forwards took the ball to the Harlequins’ half, where Tripp missed a punt by Webb. This led to a scrum five yards out. Baker got the ball away along the three-quarter line. Re-enter the reformed Hamblin, who, making no mistake about his pass, tried to get round on the left, found there was no thoroughfare, dodged back to the centre, found the way blocked, nipped back to the left, found all traffic held up, and finally, his patience giving way, dropped another goal—a magnificent one from somewhere near the touchline.
Once more a spasm of energy galvanised the Harlequin forwards. For five minutes they held Gloucester penned up on their line; then Hamblin relieved with a punt. Birkett and Elmslie got through again to the line, but Sibree failed to gather the ball when his forwards heeled, and the Gloucester pack rushed to the “Twenty-five” line. From there, headed by Lawson, who played a good game all through, they dribbled into the Harlequins’ “Twenty-five.” Tripp saved on the line, and Perkins and Lambert returned to half-way. Another good dribble by Lawson was stopped well inside the Harlequins’ half. The game ended with an innocuous free kick against Gloucester.