HARLEQUINS captain Chris Robshaw last night said that he was proud his side’s passionate performance at the home of one of the favourites to lift the Heineken Cup, despite suffering a narrow defeat.
The Aviva Premiership Rugby outfit headed to Clermont Auvergne yesterday – where the home side have not lost for 64 matches – and they emerged with their heads held high and a bonus point.
“In the Aviva Premiership we have started pretty slowly. Hopefully this game has really turned our season around. I’m incredibly proud of all the guys out there,” said Robshaw after the 23-16 loss.
Harlequins were without 13 players due to widespread injuries, but still emerged from central France with a precious and hard-earned point, the bonus guaranteed by a late Nick Evans drop goal.
Robshaw added: “We are disappointed not to have come away with more. You look at the record that they have here and credit to them. We gave them three early tries but stayed in it and leave with a point because of a cracking drop goal by Nick to finish.”
Tom Williams went over on the stroke of half-time for the visiting Quins to bring them within striking range of a Clermont side that ran in three tries themselves.
Robshaw’s pride was echoed by director of rugby Conor O’Shea. “I am immensely proud of the players and the way they went about it,” O’Shea said. “They didn’t go into their shells, they went out and played and took the game to them, which is what you want.”
Meanwhile, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall leapt to the defence of his fly-half Owen Farrell despite watching his side slip to a 17-16 defeat at Wembley against Toulouse on Friday night.
The Aviva Premiership table toppers led 16-7 against their Pool 3 rivals with less than 20 minutes to play but Toulouse went on to show why they are the four-times champions of Europe. The French side’s fightback was capped by Louis Picamoles’ try to move into the lead late on. There was still time for Sarries and Farrell to try to settle the score but the England fly-half was off-target with a long-range penalty and a drop-goal as Toulouse clung on in the final moments.
The defeat means Sarries face a daunting trip to the south of France which they will in all likelihood need to win if they are to maintain any hope of topping the pool.
“It’s unbelievably disappointing to lose. We had a couple of chances in injury time – it demonstrated the fight and composure of the team that we were able to do that,” said McCall.
“Farrell was magnificent, unbelievable, the best player on the pitch. He did everything and doesn’t shoulder any of the blame – he was brilliant.
“This result puts Toulouse in control of the group to a degree, but we still have a lot to play for.”
The weekend was better for Leicester Tigers, however, who secured a bonus point in dispatching Treviso 34-3.
And London Irish ran in nine tries for the second week running to beat Lusitanos 67-6, in the Amlin Challenge Cup, to leave them top of Pool 5.
Marland Yarde and Jimmy Stevens both crossed twice for the Exiles while Myles Dorrian landed nine kicks.
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