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.”
Royal Rumble 2015: Roman Reigns triumphs after The Rock returns to set-up Wrestlemania showdown with Brock Lesnar
What time is the 2015 WWE Royal Rumble on? TV details and full card
Brighton 2 Arsenal 3 player ratings: Did Tomas Rosicky's performance and goal make him man of the match at Amex Stadium?
Liverpool transfer news and rumours: Glen Johnson to stay; Fabian Delph move goes up in flames; Marc-Andre Ter Stegen for loan deal
Brighton vs Arsenal match report: Tomas Rosicky inspirational as Gunners avoid scare
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party