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'Dombrandt looks a proper athlete now... he's stripped down again'

By Liam Heagney

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The Rugby Pod has paid tribute to the incredibly entertaining style that Harlequins have continued to play now that they are defending Gallagher Premiership champions, Marcus Smith, Louis Lynagh, Tyrone Green and Alex Dombrandt all recipients of kudos on the latest show in the wake of last Friday’s demolition of Bristol.

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Having swept to their first title last June since 2012 and having also appointed a new head of rugby in Tabai Matson, it would have been understandable if Harlequins encountered an early-season adjustment to life as champions under a new boss. 

However, there has been no let-up following the title-winning drama of last season, Harlequins winning all three of their games so far in the 2021/22 campaign to leave them in second place, three points behind leaders Leicester who have played a game more. 

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Their most impressive display unfolded last Friday at The Stoop where they sauntered back from being 21 points down to defeat Bristol 52-24 in a fashion that was even far more swashbuckling than their extra-time win over the Bears in last June’s semi-final after they fell 28 points down.  

Rugby Pod duo Andy Goode and Jim Hamilton were most impressed and while they have their fears over what the loss meant for struggling Bristol, they giddily doled out the compliments to Harlequins, suggesting Smith should be made England captain, that Lynagh will be a long-term England winger and that Dombrandt has taken his game to another level having finally earned his Test debut cap in July. 

Goode said: “Quins were a little bit shell shocked and then Marcus Smith, make him England captain, they bring him on. They score 50-odd points from when he comes on. I feel sorry for Tommaso Allan. Poor bloke, he has gone off, they are 21-0 down, Marcus Smith comes on, you ain’t ever playing again Tommy unless Marcus Smith is away with England because he was ridiculous. His touches, ball in hand, going to the line, feeding people, kicking game, absolutely ridiculous. If he ain’t starting for England as first-choice ten in the autumn, Eddie Jones, take a walk straight back to Japan or Australia because he was world-class, out-and-out world-class.”

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Hamilton replied: “We love Bristol but there is a problem there somewhere. To go 21-0 up and then to lose a game again off the back of the semi-final from last year, it’s almost as if they have been found out. Play, play, play and there is not much else to their game which there is obviously. 

“Is it back to the drawing board for a team like Bristol? It’s hard because we are still early in the season but momentum is everything. Fair play to Quins, you look at the backbone of that team now, young English players. Louis Lynagh, he might not be English but if he gets capped he will be.”

“He will (get capped),” chipped in Goode about the 20-year-old who was included by Jones in last month’s England training squad. “He has made the decision at the minute that he wants to play for England because he went into the England training squad and all this stuff. I did see last week the Australians are still going to ask him if he wants to have a conversation around coming back to Australia.”

Hamilton added: “His dad, Australian legend Michael, has obviously said to him you need to keep the door open, it’s a professional sport… but the more and more I watch him you think this kid could be playing wing for England for a long, long time.”

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The final word on Harlequins went to Goode, who touched on the efforts of Green and Dombrandt. “The only thing I was disappointed in Quins was they took him [Lynagh] off. Leave him on to get a hat-trick because no doubt he would have scored it, but they were phenomenal. Tyrone Green at full-back, very small player, very slight, punches way above his weight. So hard to bring down in the tackle. They are just playing with excitement, with vigour. 

“Dombrandt looks like a proper athlete now as well. People said before he had a uni body, whatever. He has stripped down again and he looks completely the real deal. You saw his offload for one of the tries. They are playing with a ridiculous amount of confidence. 

“When your tighthead prop, who ain’t score in 134 Premiership games, throws a dummy and then sprints in from about 25 metres… no one from Bristol tackled him and I’ll be honest about Bristol, they are absolutely f***ed fitness-wise. They didn’t play any pre-season games, they flew out of the blocks and then shot their bolt.”

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