Heineken Cup round-up: 'Harlequins can complete great fightback,' says Director of Rugby Connor O'Shea
Sunday 15 December 2013
Conor O’Shea believes Harlequins can clinch a remarkable comeback and qualify for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup after earning their second successive victory over big-spending Racing Metro.
Quins lost their opening two matches in Pool Four but yesterday’s 17-3 triumph at Twickenham Stoop courtesy of Charlie Walker’s first-half try and three penalties from Nick Evans has revived their ambitions. Clermont Auvergne, who top the group by four points, must now travel to south-west London next month in the group’s pivotal fixture.
“To have lost our first two games but to be right back in it when Clermont come here is fantastic,” said O’Shea, the director of rugby. “We know exactly what we have to do.
“We’ve been written off, but this team likes challenges. Over two weekends we’ve taken nine points out of a possible 10 against a Racing team with a large squad. We were the better team, with the emphasis on team, and that’s what made the big difference.
“It’s a different kettle of fish when you’re playing Clermont, who have been together for such a long time.”
It was also a good weekend for Northampton, who gained revenge for their mauling against Leinster last week by inflicting a first defeat of the competition on the Irish side. Wings George North and Jamie Elliot scored the only tries to leave Saints within four points of Leinster at the top of Pool One.
“It gives a little bit of life to the group. It’s not sort of dead and buried,” said the director of rugby, Jim Mallinder.
“We still got two tough games, but Leinster have got that as well. It gives us hope and it is still great to be in the competition with something to play for and it sets us up well for the next few weeks in the Premiership.”
Saracens are the only English side to lead the way after four games following their 64-3 dismantling of Zebre, although their chances of progressing should come down to the meeting in Toulouse next month. The French side are tied on points with them after beating Connacht 37-9 in Ireland, having surprisingly lost at home last week. Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, believes it is crucial his team take advantage and secure a home quarter-final.
“We need to go and win in Toulouse if we want to top the group,” he said. “But for now we’ll deal with the Premiership as we’ve got three games before then.”
McCall was also full of praise for the England wing, Chris Ashton, after his excellent display yielded a try in the last minute. “I thought he did well in the autumn and he enjoys coming back to the club. We know how good he is,” said McCall.
“He has always been good for us and he was good again today. I think he gets scrutinised more than any other players and people look for small incidents rather than looking at his strengths.
“He gets a different kind of scrutiny than everyone else, which is unfair. He was superb today, he was superb last week and he’s been good for a period of time, and people look to criticise him for small mistakes.”
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014: In defence of Mesut Ozil - the Arsenal midfielder works magic in the shadows
Brazil vs Germany match report World Cup 2014: Utter humiliation for hosts as Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos help Germany hit seven past Selecao
Pornhub pleads with users to stop uploading videos of Brazil 'getting f**ked by Germany' in World Cup match
Netherlands vs Argentina match report World Cup 2014: Messi and Robben fail to shine as Sergio Romero breaks Dutch hearts
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014: Heartbreaking photos show home fans reacting to humiliating defeat
- 1 Howard Jacobson: Let’s see the 'criticism' of Israel for what it really is
- 2 Gingers face extinction due to climate change, scientists warn
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
British jihadist calls for 'flag of Islam' over Downing Street and Buckingham Palace
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
There’s a nasty smell in the political air – and it’s coming from the Tories