Tabai Matson full of praise for birthday boy Danny Care

Date published: January 3 2022 - Planet Rugby

Harlequins head coach Tabai Matson praised the continuing influence of Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care after he celebrated his 35th birthday with a decisive try in Sunday’s Premiership triumph over Gloucester.

Care, who represented England in 84 Tests and last played for his country in 2018, scored his try in the 65th minute as Harlequins won 20-17 at Kingsholm.

On course for the play-offs

It was the Premiership champions’ fifth win in a row against the Cherry and Whites and cements their position amongst the play-off places.

“On his 35th birthday, how good was that?” Quins senior coach Matson said.

“He just keeps finding a way to get over the line. The forwards will whack him over the head for stealing their try – it was a maul and he just snuck in.

“He has still got years left in him. He’s going well, isn’t he?

“People spoke earlier about Andre (Esterhuizen) and Marcus (Smith), but Danny and Marcus, their combination is also outstanding.

“With those three and (Alex) Dombrandt, that is the spine of your team and a good way to start any attacking platform.

“To get a result here is phenomenal, but to do it with a couple of yellow cards in the first half showed real grit and determination.

“We had the territory and possession, and it was only a matter of time before we got the scoreboard ticking over. It took a lot, and to sneak away by just three points is a great result for us.

“To play with 14 men for 20 minutes is pretty significant. It’s really tough here, but to do it with 14 for a period shows how well we adapted.”

Quins trailed by 10 points midway through the second quarter, but they drew level by half-time before taking charge during the second period.

Centre Luke Northmore and Care scored tries – the latter putting Quins ahead for the first time – while Smith kicked two penalties and two conversions.

Matson added: “The players are really focused on making the top four. This win here gives us a bit of breathing space, but there is a lot of Premiership rugby to go.

“They are adamant that if we make the top four, there is real belief in this team. I wasn’t here last year, but the fans will tell you that if we make a semi-final, who knows.”

Gloucester, chasing a fourth Premiership win on the bounce that would have underlined their play-off credentials, posted a first-half try through number eight Ruan Ackermann, with Adam Hastings adding a conversion and penalty.

But they could not get going in the second half, even though substitute hooker Santiago Socino’s late score that Lloyd Evans converted secured a losing bonus point.

Gloucester head coach George Skivington said: “They kept the pressure on us and, in the end, it is really disappointing.

“We will learn and get better. Against these teams, you will only get a few opportunities and you have got to take them, and that is something we have got to really push hard.

“They have been at this level longer than we have. We are on a similar journey, but I think they are a little bit further ahead of us.

“It is a fair result. I have got no qualms with anything. It was very physical, but these are the games we want to play.

“Quins are a good team. They score a lot of tries, but our defence was really strong today. They’ve ripped a lot of teams apart and scored a lot more tries than they did against us today.”

Sale Sharks eyeing play-off berth after win over Wasps

Meanwhile, Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson wants his team to build on their 26-18 New Year’s Day victory over Wasps as they look to get back into the race for the play-offs.

Sale had won just three of their first nine Premiership matches but got the better of Wasps as they scored four tries to seal their win at the AJ Bell Stadium and move up to ninth position in the standings.

Although fourth-placed Gloucester are still nine points ahead of them, Sanderson was happy with the way his team battled to maximum points.

He said: “It wasn’t the easiest of victories but we’ve done everything we needed to do to help us keep marching up the table.

“The whole team have given me everything again. I’ll have a nice night now but then it’s about cracking on again – we’ve started the year really well.”