Champions Cup: Harlequins coach Tabai Matson questions two-leg format

Date published: April 20 2022 - Dylan Coetzee

Harlequins senior coach Tabai Matson has voiced his disagreement with the two-leg Champions Cup format after Montpellier knocked his side out in the Round of 16.

Matson’s men almost staged a historical comeback but lost 60-59 on aggregate to their French counterparts with only a missed Marcus Smith missed conversion separating the sides.

No reward

The 48-year-old does not think it is fair on teams that performed well in the group stage, given that Harlequins finished second in Pool B while Montpellier finished seventh in Pool A.

“I think it’s pretty tough. On reflection, we finished second in our pool and they finished seventh in their pool and they basically get a free crack,” Matson said.

“I’m not sure in the final 16 if there was any advantage for us. Ultimately, we won five (pool) games and they won two.

“But it’s not sour grapes. They were better than us over the last two games so they deserve to go through.

“I’ve got no qualms about that, but it does make the first part of pool play farcical if they get two cracks at it and you don’t really get an advantage from finishing top of the table.”

Matson understands how he may come across when discussing the format after his side has been knocked out but is ultimately not convinced advantages gained in the pool stage actually materialise as a leg-up.

“I think they know that,” he said. “When you feed back that information now it’s quite gripey. ‘Those guys got knocked out and now their griping about the format of the competition’.

“I think the format was a response to what’s happening around Covid and the other issues and all of that, so I completely understand that.

“When you stand back and reflect, the team that comes first in the league (pool) plays the team that comes eighth – there’s really no advantage.

“The advantage is you get to play at home in the second leg, that’s not really an advantage.”

The New Zealander suggested introducing the two-leg format from the semi-final stage as it would offer more reward for teams who played well during the pool stage.

“I think at this point here, maybe you could consider the teams that have finished the pool playing well actually getting an advantage,” he said.

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