Harlequins did all they could to make the last eight of the Champions Cup by picking up a bonus point in their 47-19 win at Castres.
However, Wasps’ draw with Leinster in Coventry meant that Quins were pipped to second place in Pool 2 and consequently cannot make the knockout stages.
Conor O’Shea said he’d have been happy with a win, never mind a bonus point, before the game, but his side managed three before the break before pulling away in the second half.
Harlequins knew that a bonus point was their only chance of qualification, and they got over with their first lineout.
Captain Joe Marler had his hands on the ball, as Quins mauled their way past their French opponents.
Castres had nothing but pride to play for after losing their first five games, in a competition, which has failed to give them any relief from their struggles in the Top 14.
O’Shea would have been happy with his side’s start, but they let it slip soon after with Antoine Dupont skipping off the back of a scrum and dancing over the line to level.
That didn’t really affect the away side, with Charlie Walker stepping and swerving past a couple of tackles for Quins’ second try, halfway to the magic bonus point.
They had to win first though, and they were pegged back just before the break when Romain Cabannes crossed to put the sides level at the break.
Danny Care blasted out of the blocks after the interval though, crossing for a try just a minute into the second half which meant Quins were in touching distance of the extra point.
The bonus point was secured soon after, after Mike Brown put in a great kick in behind the Castres defence which allowed Jack Clifford in to give his side a two-try buffer.
The win was in the bag soon after, with Mark Lambert and Marland Yarde both crossing within a minute of each other.
Johnnie Beattie did put some gloss on the scoreline for Castres with a try off the back of a scrum.
The qualification chances were out of Quins’ hands, as they had to carry on with Wasps and Leinster deciding their fate. As it was, Wasps’ draw with Leinster meant O’Shea’s side were out despite an excellent performance.
Tries: Dupont, Cabannes, Beattie
Cons: Dumora 2
Yellow Cards: Combezou, Grosso
Tries: Marler, Walker, Clifford, Care, Lambert, Yarde, Lowe
Cons: Evans 6
Castres: 15 Julien Dumora, 14 Remi Grosso, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Romain Cabannes, 11 Marcel Garvey, 10 Remi Tales, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 Yannick Caballero (c), 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Christophe Samson, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Marc-Antoine Rallier, 1 Yannick Forestier.
Replacements: 16 Brice Mach, 17 Paea Faanunu, 18 Mihaita Lazar, 19 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 20 Jannie Bornman, 21 Remi Lamerat, 22 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23 Cedric Garcia.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 George Lowe, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Joe Marler (c).
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Darryl Marfo, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Kelvin Shorte (Wales)