Tabai Matson: Harlequins boss defends Marcus Smith and cites missed opportunities and lenient officiating for Champions Cup exit

·3-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

An exhilarating second-leg comeback from Harlequins ultimately fell short at the close after Marcus Smith missed a conversion that would have put the hosts ahead by one point.

Quins senior coach Tabai Matson refused to blame fly-half Smith‘s wayward conversion for Harlequins‘ loss on aggregate to Montpellier, instead focussing on the missed opportunities that could have sealed the tie earlier on.

Smith had also scored a try in the second half that was disallowed because full-back Huw Jones took out one of the visiting defenders when Smith was looping behind him.

Ultimately, the opportunities that Harlequins failed to capitalise on led to them squandering a chance to appear in their first quarter-final in the competition since 2013.

Despite a gutting loss due to a missed kick, in their post match interviews both Danny Care and Matson were forgiving of Smith, with both parties accepting a collective blame.

Disappointing result after audacious comeback attempt

“He (Smith) will be disappointed like all the players who have really high standards,” Matson said.

“It will hit him, but we play Leicester next week. Our Europe is over, that is the big thing, and that is gutting and it is how quickly you bounce.

“As with all the guys that touch the ball the most, they get a bit of leeway because the margin of error is really hard.

“You don’t have to tell someone they missed a pass or missed a goal-kick. They know.

“It is not just him. He was there for the winning of the game at the end, but you can’t put the blame down to him.

“We probably had three opportunities in the first half that we missed to get the scoreboard ticking over.”

Quins did their best to make up for the atrocious first-half performance last week in Montpellier by setting the tone with four tries before the interval having lost 40-26 in France.

However, this was not enough to win overall as Montpellier continued to tick over and, although they lost the second-leg, they won overall 60-59.

Matson added: “To go 160 minutes and lose by a point, you realise you have missed a lot of opportunities that could have got you over the line, and that is the most frustrating thing.

“The 34-point deficit and to come back and be nearly winning is really positive, but Europe is over.”

Quins won eight consecutive scrum penalties with hooker Jeremie Maurouard eventually being sin binned following the latter but this played into Montpellier’s hands as the time spent scrummaging by their own try line helped them closer to victory.

“We got a yellow card, and on the first scrum I thought the (Montpellier) nine should have been penalised, but for us, the learning as we get into the big games at the end is just being composed,” Matson said.

“For us, it was great we put them under pressure, but we didn’t affect the scoreboard, so that is the main thing.

“You have got to give this top French team credit. They were ferociously competitive, they scrambled well and the gamesmanship at the scrum, they took away with the win and they will move on.

“It was a unique challenge for us, so I enjoyed that. We started the game 14 points down, which we invariably do at Quins!

“We were one point short, and our first half last week put us in that position. We had 160 minutes to do our thing.

“There will be a lot of really disappointed players and coaches because we felt we could go deeper in this competition.

“The way we finished the pool stages got us to this, and to lose by one point after 160 minutes is gutting.

“We are still in the (Premiership) reckoning, and the focus now can be purely on that.”

READ MORE: Champions Cup: Montpellier reach quarter-finals despite loss to Harlequins

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