Last weekend an extraordinary thing happened. The Harlequins team won the UK Rugby Premiership in the greatest cup final ever played.
Six weeks into the regular season, Quins had won only two games. They had moved away from their DNA as a creative running rugby side. Confidence was at rock bottom. Head coach, Paul Gustard, was sacked, much to the regret of most players who felt he had paid the price for their collective failure. They took it on themselves to right the ship. Led by a collective of coaches and senior players, a group with a few old internationals, but mainly inexperienced players, set about rebuilding their season.
Just like the movies
Like one of those Hollywood feel-good sports movies, the mighty Quins began to perform. They worked as a team, re-committed to their expansive style and began a winning streak, that saw them finish fourth in the league. This meant they qualified for the final play off series. And they did it all in style, with high-scoring games, where defence was ‘optional’.
Poking the Bears
In the semi-final they faced league-winners Bristol Bears. Massive underdogs, Harlequins found themselves 28-0 down after 30 minutes – completely outgunned. In rugby, you don’t come back from that kind of deficit. They scored 5 points just before the break to restore a chink of hope. At half time, the talk from the older heads to the shell-shocked younger players was to BELIEVE. Believe that we can come back. They had come this far as a self-coaching, totally committed TEAM who believed in each other and owned their own shit!
In the second half, they stuck to their ‘attack, attack, attack’ style, stunning Bristol and forcing the game into extra time. After 100 minutes of thrilling rugby, Quins emerged victorious in what was hailed as the greatest semi-final win ever played. There were extraordinary performances across the park, none better than talismanic 120kg prop, Joe Marler. He played for 95 minutes – about twice what is expected in that incredibly physical position.
The Big Dance
Through to the Big Dance, all the talk was that the Harlequins had ‘already played their final’. The fairy tale surely had to end at Twickenham against the Exeter Chiefs, who had made the final for the last six years and won twice. A hardened team of West-Countrymen, brimming with top-flight internationals.
Waking to a clear blue-sky morning (this is England remember!), veteran scrum half, Danny Care said, “this is our day”. Quins got off to a great start, continuing to back the ‘attack at every opportunity’ style, that every expert said could not succeed in ‘finals footy’. With 10-minutes to go, Exeter had exerted their expected dominance and were 8 points ahead. It looked like the dream was over. But Harlequins somehow stayed in the game and moved into an attacking position on the field. As the forwards walked towards the lineout, Marler could be seen to say to his teammates, BELIEVE, BELIEVE, BELIEVE
And they did. In a mesmerising final quarter, Harlequin’s winger, Loius Lynagh (son of the Australian world-cup winner) scored not once, but twice to put the result beyond doubt. Cue total DIS-Belief and euphoria!
BELIEF is real
This is a great sporting story. It is also a lesson for us all about the power of BELIEF – in ourselves, our team and our mission – in creating amazing outcomes.
I am currently working with a software business that is totally focused on delivering a new product and signing up key clients by a certain date. Everyone knows the date. There is a daily countdown. Everyone knows what is expected of them. And whilst they are under pressure, there is an excitement that comes from the BELIEF that they are a great team, clearly aligned and 100% focused on the mission.
And that may be the only difference between success and failure.
What can you be doing to create more BELIEF in your world?