Tabai Matson: Harlequins coach says a game of cricket helped his players overcome Champions Cup exit

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

A game of cricket helped Harlequins’ players to overcome last weekend’s heartbreaking exit from this season’s Champions Cup.

That was the word from Quins head coach Tabai Matson after his team bowed out of the prestigious tournament courtesy of a 60-59 aggregate defeat to Montpellier.

Costly miss from Marcus Smith

The Premiership‘s defending champions sealed a 33-20 victory in the return leg at Twickenham Stoop fell short by a point after Marcus Smith failed to convert a Louis Lynagh try in that game’s dying moments.

But Quins have put that behind them and turned their focus to Saturday’s home clash with Premiership table-toppers Leicester Tigers with cricket playing a prominent role in helping them to regroup.

“We went to work (on Monday) and then we played cricket in the afternoon. It’s real simple,” said Matson.

“We didn’t go through what we’d normally do. We played a bit of backyard cricket and had a bit of fun and that was on the response from the players’ meeting in the morning.

“They were pretty gutted. We’ve spoken all year and there was a genuine desire to move deeper into the play-offs, pushing in Europe, and to be knocked out at this stage was a bit of a kick in the guts.

“They know they’ve missed an opportunity, so there weren’t many rugby balls, but we’re back to work.

“If we don’t get this week’s prep right Leicester will humiliate us, so you can’t sulk for too long in this competition, that’s for sure.”

Harlequins are currently in third place on the Premiership table behind Leicester and Saracens and with four league games remaining in the season they are six points ahead of Exeter Chiefs, who occupy the final play-off spot.

“We’ve got the best team in England currently at the weekend and then we got to Northampton, Gloucester, Exeter.

“So for us we’ve got to play well to keep in the top four. That can be our sole focus now, so it’s a massive challenge this week.

“Leicester have shown their credentials in Europe as well over the last two weeks, so we’ve got a fantastic challenge in our last game at The Stoop. It’s a good team to bounce up to, to be fair.

“We’re under no illusions that we’re going to be in the top four after (our next) four games. We have to be at our best.”

Quins have been on the losing side on seven occasions in Premiership this season. That includes a 16-14 loss against the Leicester at Welford Road December, but they are 10 points clear of fifth-placed Northampton Saints after winning their last five Premiership matches.

Matson added: “We probably still haven’t found our best and that’s the reason Montpellier beat us convincingly at home and we let a few easy ones slip at the weekend.

“These four Premiership matches will ensure that if we’re good enough, we’ll be in the top four and will be ready, hopefully, for the play-offs.”

READ MORE: Premiership: Harlequins and Leicester Tigers stacked with talent in pick of the games on Saturday

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