When looking through the list of runners and riders before the start of the 2011/12 Aviva Premiership season, not many people would have predicted that one side would dominate the opening half of the season and then hold their nerve to go on and win the title.
Yet Harlequins, against all the odds and a raft of quality opposition, managed to do exactly that and walked away with their first ever Premiership trophy after a superb 30-23 victory over Leicester Tigers at Twickenham last month.
Bear in mind also, that this was a club on its knees following the Bloodgate scandal of 2009 and many pundits predicted that Harlequins could have been at the start of a miserable downward spiral. But this was never going to be a club that rolled over and died without a fight.
This was not, however, a season where Quins serenely glided over every obstacle in their way: they saw their ten-game unbeaten run shattered by Saracens, were thrashed at home by Leicester in April and were even trailing in their semi-final clash against Northampton with just five minutes remaining.
But despite all of these challenges, Quins responded like the champions they were soon to become and rebounded from losing their unbeaten record by beating Sarries at Wembley, recovered to beat the Saints and gained revenge on the Tigers in the all-important showpiece final.
On top of all that, Conor O’Shea’s side were a team packed with raw English talent and the performances of players such as Mike Brown, Jordan Turner-Hall and Joe Marler amongst others saw plenty of Quins players called up to feature for England during this year’s Six Nations.
The performances of Chris Robshaw also saw him captained by both club and country and his leadership was instrumental in the London side’s monumental success over the 2011/12 campaign.
Positivity and belief will still be coursing through the veins of all those at the Stoop following their recent triumph but the question is, will they be able to repeat the feat next season or will they be the one-hit wonders who will fall away?
On the evidence of last season and if the club can hold onto all of its key players then you have to feel that it will be the former. This is not just a Quins side that is full of English talent but it also possesses some exceptional performers from overseas which only adds to the concoction.
Fly-half Nick Evans was imperious with the boot all season and regularly kicked the opposition out of matches whilst the powerful unit Maurie Fa’asavalu was a regularly blitzer of visiting defences and his runs over the gain line often set up opportunities for Quins to launch their ever-potent attacks.
Add into the mixture an outstanding coach, which Harlequins have in O’Shea, and you can only feel that the club will now go from strength to strength. Under the Irishman’s management, Quins have become a tighter unit and are much harder to beat, having only lost four games during the regular domestic season, the lowest number of defeats of any team in the league.
The Stoop acted as the majestic home of the champions, a venue that no visiting team looked forward to visiting and attendances grew proportionally throughout the season as Quins fans suddenly saw the glistening Premiership trophy come racing into vision.
All O’Shea and Robshaw must do next season is continue to steer their imposing ship through the ever-improving domestic waters whilst at the same time trying to knock the all-conquering Leinster from their European perch, a test that all sides in England must relish.
But for now, Harlequins must enjoy the moment they so thoroughly deserve. Most experts doubted whether they could reach the next level and they have. Whether they can continue to dominate English rugby on a consistent basis and then conquer Europe is up for debate but after last season’s heroics, who would bet against them?