O’Shea defends Harlequins players

Date published: March 8 2015

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Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea defended his under-fire players after seeing them hang on in a nervous finale against London Irish to end a difficult recent run of results.

Quins had not won on home soil since their victory over Leicester Tigers at the start of 2015, indeed O'Shea's troops were on a five-match losing streak in all competitions prior to kick-off, their worst run since the 2010 season.

Fly-half Nick Evans steadied the ship for Quins by kicking 16 points, in their 26-20 victory, while Danny Care and Matt Hopper scored a try each, with James Short and Tom Fowlie replying for London Irish.

"We've gone through a tough period, but I think some of the young lads are going to learn massively from it," said a relieved O'Shea.

"It got tense for the players, as you would expect. We'll learn from it. I'd love it to be beautiful all the time, but it never has been and never will be. But we will be much better for this.

"We carry more than anyone, we pass more than anyone, and we offload more than anybody and hold on to the ball more than anybody.

"If that is a sin, to want to play rugby and not just kick-chase and be defensive, I'd prefer it like that.

"I think the game has a massive question to ask itself. Does it want to be all about kick-chasing and pressure or does it want to see teams play with ball in hand?"

London Irish have not been victorious at the Twickenham Stoop since they won their 17-0 in the Aviva Premiership semi-final in May 2009 and that unwanted run didn't look like changing from the word go.

The Exiles may have ended a four-game losing run in all competitions with their 50-12 victory at London Welsh last weekend – their highest points total in the tournament since 2012 – but for large parts they played second fiddle to O'Shea's men.

A late Fowlie score may have set up a tense finale but in truth London Irish were second best and will be pleased with their losing bonus point.

London Irish interim head coach Glenn Delaney said: "The good thing about us is we have an ability to stay in the game.

"If we look at this last block of four games, we've been in every game. Against London Welsh we won comfortably, but in the games against the big clubs we've lost by six points or less, so we're in the hunt.

"Apart from the first half today, in our previous three games our defence has been outstanding. We've been really shutting teams down. Today, we didn't do a good enough job at stopping the offloading game, which is very challenging, because they've got great players.

"There's a lot to play for. It would be fairly easy to say, 'London Irish, nothing to play for', but we've created lots of things to play for.

"We came here with an expectation and thought we could win. The reality is there is plenty to play for."

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