Harlequins 25-23 Northampton, Aviva Premiership semi-final
Marler hails Quins' forward power
May 13, 2012
Quins' Joe Marler crossed for a crucial try in his side's Premiership semi-final victory over Northampton © PA Photos
Harlequins' Joe Marler is "buzzing" ahead of side's Aviva Premiership final showdown with Leicester having propelled his side into the Twickenham showpiece.
Marler was at the forefront of a dramatic 25-23 victory against Northampton on Saturday and at the heart of a superb drive that resulted in the match-winning try. The 21-year-old, famed for his mohican hairstyle, is now looking forward to a re-match with the Tigers who booked their place in an eight successive Premiership final with a comprehensive 24-15 victory over Saracens.
Last year, Harlequins snatched a similar last-gasp victory over Stade Francais in the Amlin Challenge Cup final and they have beaten both Munster and Toulouse away, experience that Marler believes will be invaluable as they contemplate their first final appearance.
"I am just buzzing for Twickenham now. The final will be massive," said Marler, who was included in England's squad to tour South Africa last week. "We have had great games against Leicester. We will front up. This pack started against Munster away, it started in the Amlin final. We have played in big games. We have started to mature now.
"Unfortunately it took Northampton's try for us to turn around and say: 'We need to pull our fingers out here'. We didn't panic, based on those results we had before, and we went out and did it."
It was heartbreaking for Northampton, who should have closed the game out after Lee Dickson had finished a 50-metre attack to put them 23-15 ahead but slipped to a third Premiership semi-final defeat. But, over the course of the season, Harlequins deserved a place in the Premiership final having been top of the table since mid-September.
They only lost four league matches all season but, crucially perhaps, two of them were to their final opponents Leicester. However, Quins boss Conor O'Shea is confident his side can capture English club rugby's top prize. "We have a performance left in us," he insisted.
Harlequins' comeback was completed by a remarkable lineout drive which saw virtually every player in the maul. Not only were Northampton driven backwards but they were driven towards the posts, making the winning conversion a formality for fly-half Nick Evans.
"I saw Nick Evans on my left and Karl Dickson on my right," Marler said. "I thought: `This is it lads, sod throwing the ball about, we are just going to maul'! It was a great team effort.
"People expect us to the throw the ball about, it is what Harlequins have been known for over the years. We like to think we can still do that but we want an all-round game. The scrum is a big area we have worked on this year and so is the maul. That showed out there."
Northampton were missing five England players through injury, including Chris Ashton who has now played his final game for the club, but director of rugby Jim Mallinder was not looking for excuses after the game and he is optimistic about the future.
"I would be really disappointed if we were finishing eighth or ninth in the league every year. We are not. We are in Europe every year, we are in semi-finals and we are giving ourselves the chance," Mallinder said. "We made the Heineken Cup final last season which was a tremendous effort for us. We are in a decent position. We are not making that many changes in the summer and we have a few good players coming in. That will stand us in good stead for next year."
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