Tabai Matson hopes Harlequins can build on fine start

Date published: December 18 2021 - Planet Rugby

Harlequins coach Tabai Matson hopes his team will get an opportunity to build on their excellent Champions Cup start next month after their 43-17 triumph against an under-strength Cardiff side.

The Premiership champions made it two victories from two matches in the tournament, but their clash against Cardiff at Twickenham Stoop was one of just five Round Two fixtures to take place this weekend as Covid-19 wreaked havoc.

Pool stage under threat

And with travel restrictions between France and the United Kingdom being implemented on Saturday there are fears of a repeat of last season, with the pool stage in danger of being abandoned in January.

Matson said: “I think we are all being thrown curveballs – we had a couple of curveballs last night (Friday) that led to a couple of academy guys being called up at the last minute.

“I think all we can do is follow the regulations and hope for the best.

“With the calls they made yesterday, and in the weeks to come, who knows?

“We were probably just lucky that we had a one o’clock game and had two teams that can play, so hopefully that will put us in the box seat in January.

“You wouldn’t have thought it in the first half, but the team really has got high expectations about pushing into the second stage of the competition, so we can only control what we can control.

“The Heineken Champions Cup, for this club, we haven’t gone long in for a long time, so it’s good to be in a position to push a bit further.”

Despite tries by Danny Care and Marcus Smith, the two teams went in level at 17-17 at half-time, as scores by Cardiff youngsters Cameron Winnett and Theo Cabango sandwiched James Botham’s effort.

But Quins pulled away in the second half, with Alex Dombrandt grabbing two tries and Joe Marchant and Andre Esterhuizen also going over.

Cardiff academy manager Gruff Rees said: “We had to back up a tough physical effort from last week (against Toulouse), but we did that.

“We enjoyed our rugby for the most part and, 55 to 60 minutes in we were well in it – we got held up over the line – but then credit to Harlequins, who squeezed us a little bit.

“We were punched out, I guess, trying to play catch-up with their bench coming on and it got a bit stretched.

“But, overall, it’s been a great couple of weeks for the club in terms of playing in this competition and playing some good rugby in this competition with a mix of players you would have never thought of four to six weeks ago.

“We’ve come from totally different backgrounds, but it’s been developmentally brilliant for some of our academy boys to be around the senior players.”

Ability to bring some joy to family driving Ben Youngs

Meanwhile, England and Leicester Tigers scrum-half Ben Youngs has revealed that he is playing for his family as he reaches the final chapter of a glittering career.

Youngs is determined to extract everything possible from his final years on the rugby field knowing that his success is a source of comfort to a family that’s struggling.

His brother and Leicester team-mate, Tom, is in Norfolk caring for his sick wife Tiffany, who previously recovered from Hodgkin Lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.