By Rowan Birch
On Saturday 26th May, Harlequins defied the odds in their first ever Premiership final to beat firm favourites Leicester, in what was their eighth successive final.
So how did David beat Goliath? Firstly, Quins were the outright underdogs from the off. They had no experience of Premiership finals and the general consensus was a heavy victory for the Tigers.
But the underdog tag wasn't all bad. It put significant pressure on Leicester and allowed Quins to play how they wanted. It also allowed the Quins to play exciting, quick rugby - just the way they like it, as the London based club had nothing to lose.
The second of many reasons the Quins won was because of Leicester's lack of discipline. In the second minute, Manu Tuilagi (one of the Tigers' biggest hitters) was cautioned for a 'spear tackle' on Danny Care. It was an easy kick and meant Tuilagi was treading on thin ice all game. But that wasn't the end of Leicester's disciplinary nightmare - Thomas 'The Tank' Waldrom was yellowed for what can only be called as a 'stupid infringement' later on in the half. That alone knocked the Tigers morale and put Harlequins on the front foot just before half time.
Also, the 'home advantage' for Harlequins helped them with the Stoop less than a mile away from Twickenham, Harlequins were practically playing at home. Not only was it an advantage as the Quins players were playing on 'familiar' turf, but it was a lot easier for Quins fans to travel to the game, boosting Harlequin morale even further.
Then there was the 'FloodGate' scandal. Will he be fit? Won't he be fit? He trains, he doesn't? Toby Flood was at the nucleus of a major injury and power struggle days before the big final. It got worse - Stuart Lancaster declared him unfit, but Richard Cockerill declared him fit. It must have been an uncomfortable position for Flood and the rest of the Tigers squad, as a team needs 100% concentration in the build-up to a final. But in the end, it was Lancaster who was right.
Although named in the starting 22, Flood played no part in Leicester's fight for title. Not only did the 'FloodGate Scandal' dent Leicester’s preparations and training, Harlequins were out of the media spotlight and could concentrate fully on the mammoth challenge ahead of them.
Another reason why Harlequins won the Premiership for the first time, was the Nick Evans factor. The Kiwi won a prestigious RPA award days before the big final so the majestic fly half from down under would have been full of confidence. This confidence would have flowed through the rest of the team, therefore aiding the squad’s preparations for their 'home' final.
Harlequins also had the England captain Chris Robshaw on their side. He has inspired and charismatically led Harlequins to the top of the table this season, whilst other teams and other captains have watched in awe. Whether it was a motivational 'speech' at half time, or a try saving tackle - Robshaw provided it. He was also unfortunate not to win the RPA award, only to be pipped by teammate Evans. But Robshaw's brilliant season was topped off with what was the match winning try, after he picked a great line and powered over the line from 3 yards out. But on the other hand, Murphy (Leicester captain) has had a poor season. Rarely at his best and rarely seen rallying his troops, it was a season and a day to forget for the Irishman.
With the England squad for the tour of South Africa announced before the final, the players included would have been full of confidence. The nine Quins players (including England captain Robshaw) were going to be ready for this game and would play their hearts out to earn a place in the starting XV ahead of the first test in Durban. On the other hand, Leicester (the most successful English team ever) had a mere seven English players. Only six of them were in the starting 23 for the final.
Quins also had Mike Brown for the final. The Southampton lad had been in fantastic form all year, and has deserved to be called up to this year's national touring squad. He almost single-handedly carried Quins to their shock victory over Toulouse earlier in the season and made more running metres than any other player in the Premiership this season. Not only a squad place is guaranteed for Brown, but his first test start could be on the cards this summer after 'showing up' and outperforming two of the Premiership's best full backs in three weeks - in the shape of Foden and Murphy. Will he be able to play like he has this season against the Bokke if given the chance? Only time will tell.
So there you have it, the (many) reasons why Harlequins beat Leicester to what was their first and by no means last Premiership final.
Follow Rowan on Twitter @RowanBirch