‘We messed up’ – Danny Care rues Harlequins’ slow start in Champions Cup defeat

Jared Wright
Toulouse flanker Jack Willis and Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care during the Champions Cup.

Toulouse flanker Jack Willis and Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care during the Champions Cup.

Scrum-half Danny Care says that Harlequins “messed up” in the first half of their Investec Champions Cup semi-final against Toulouse.

The veteran half-back believes that his side gave Toulouse too many opportunities in the opening 40 minutes of the match, leaving them with too much to do in the second half.

Harlequins were 19 points adrift at half-time before staging a thrilling fightback to trail by just five with more than an hour gone and won the second half 14-7.

“We gave them too many points”

But a yellow card to hooker Jack Walker put Harlequins on the backfoot again, with Toulouse making the most of the man advantage with Juan Cruz Mallia dotting down to put the French side 38-26 up with 12 minutes to play as they went on to book their place in the final against fellow European heavyweights Leinster at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 25.

“We messed up in the first half – we gave them too many points – and unfortunately, it was too much to claw back, even for us,” Care told ITV Sport.

“They are a brilliant team, world-class, and the final is going to be unbelievable.

“But we’ve shown we can go toe to toe with one of the very best in Europe. We back ourselves against anyone, and it is all down to the Premiership now.”

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Harlequins director of rugby Billy Millard agreed with Care’s assessment as Toulouse posted five tries during a dominant first 40 minutes.

“We were getting counter-rucked at the breakdown. We let them in for some soft tries with some poor breakdown work,” Millard said.

“We didn’t start well. In these big games you can’t afford to have lapses, and we were poor in the first half, really.

“There was a lot of good stuff from today, and no injuries, and now we need to get back and prepare for a massive game (against Exeter) next weekend.

“We have got ourselves in positions in both competitions, so we have got to finish well. We will be gunning for the next two weeks.”

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A tense semi-final

Meanwhile, Jack Willis is now looking forward to a first Champions Cup final after winning the Top 14 with Toulouse last season.

“It was a pretty tense one,” Willis said. “Quins threw everything at us, and we really had to put our best out there.

“We prepared for and respected Quins this week. We saw what they did in Bordeaux (Quins beat quarter-final opponents Bordeaux-Begles 42-41) – a bit of magic at the drop of a hat – and we are chuffed to get the win.

“I grew up watching these finals with my dad and brother, and to now be involved in one is pretty incredible.

“We have got an incredible opponent in Leinster, and we have got to go there and chuck everything at it.”

READ MORE: Toulouse player ratings: Antoine Dupont brace and Francois Cros masterclass steers French outfit to Champions Cup final