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Harlequins will stick to principles for Scarlets trip
Director of rugby Conor O’Shea insisted Harlequins will learn from their Heineken Cup defeat to Clermont Auvergne and will continue to live and die by their attacking style.
A moment of brilliance from scrum half Danny Care lit up the Stoop on Saturday as Clermont all but extinguished the club’s interest in Europe’s premier competition at the group stages with a 16-13 triumph.
Care’s outrageous inside pass set up Matt Hopper to help give Quins a 13-3 advantage at the break, but they could not withstand the Clermont onslaught after half time as tries from Naipolioni Nalaga and Sitiventi Sivivatu, plus a late Brock James penalty, booked the Frenchmen a place in the last eight.
Critics might say Quins tried to play too much rugby in the second half, but O’Shea insisted Care’s individual brilliance was an example of why his men will stick to their guns.
“His piece of skill was exceptional,” said O’Shea, who rued the moment the 27-year-old limped off with an ankle problem 10 minutes after half-time.
“He is just one of those players. People will ask did we over play in the second half?
“But what got us back into the game was Danny Care tapping and going 25 yards from his own line and getting us a bit of momentum.
“He is a match winner, a game changer. The way he controls the game is utterly exceptional.”
And O’Shea has urged the sport’s powers that be to ensure a tournament of the Heineken Cup’s calibre continues next term to ensure a fitting stage for such moments of magic.
“You want days like this to get better and the younger players to get better and the older players to keep learning,” he added.
“I hope we still have a tournament like this to play in next year. It is a brilliant competition.
“Whatever solution can be reached that will bring the likes of Racing Metro, Clermont and Scarlets back here, we want.
“We’ll focus on trying to get in the Amlin Cup if we can, but then it is the Premiership in February and it is all in our hands.”
It was a sentiment echoed by second row George Robson, who insisted Quins could bounce back from their European heartache in the same way their conquerors have.
The Frenchmen missed out on lifting the cup last season thanks to an agonising 16-15 defeat to Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon and have responded to sit top of the Top 14 table in France and seem set for the final again this term.
And Robson insisted their’s is the example Quins must follow with a trip to Scarlets on Sunday and the return of Premiership action on February 9.
“Clermont have had disappointments in the past and learnt from them. We are going through that process now,” he said.
“We’re devastated to be out, but there is not a lot we can do about it.
“We go from a setback to another challenge. We’ve got to go to the Scarlets, put some pride back in the shirt and take it from there.”
He added: “We have to be more clinical. We weren’t playing a shoddy side.
“But when we get the chances we have to take them. In games like this it is small margins and if you don’t take your chances then you come up short.”