HARLEQUINS director of rugby Conor O’Shea insists his side are already looking forward to a European quarter-final after they ended their Heineken Cup campaign with victory at the Scarlets.
The Welsh side led 20-19 with seconds remaining after tries from Gareth Davies, Aaron Shingler and Scott Williams, but a last-gasp penalty from Ben Botica proved the difference as Quins, for whom Mike Brown, Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Karl Dickson touched down, held on for a 22-20 win.
And while their hopes of progressing to the knockout stages were already over, their consolation prize is a spot in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
There they will face Stade Francais and O’Shea insists his side deserve plenty of credit for the way they handled a tough pool this season that included French powerhouses Clermont Auvergne and Racing Metro.
“To finish as one of the best runners-up in such a tough pool is a real credit to the guys,” said O’Shea.
“I think there were loads of pools of death this season. We’ve won two away games, and I am delighted that we are through. We are now going to play against Stade Francais away, and the juices will really flow for something like that.”
On Saturday Saracens head coach Mark McCall singled out his back three for particular praise as his side romped to a 64-6 win over Connacht to seal their place in the knockout stages.
Wingers David Strettle and Chris Ashton grabbed a hat-trick and a double respectively while full-back Alex Goode was impressive throughout.
And McCall could not contain his delight after his side bounced back from their defeat at Toulouse the weekend before to set up a quarter-final trip to Ulster. “There were some outstanding individual performances,” said McCall. “We are not a top two or three European side but we are a top eight team.”
Meanwhile in the Amlin Challenge Cup, London Wasps cruised into the quarter-finals with a 64-17 demolition of Viadana.
London Irish’s European adventure is at an end, however, despite Blair Cowan crossing twice in the Exiles’ crushing 49-0 win over Cavalieri Prato.
Every match in the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season is crucial, to be there to support your team buy your ticket from www.premiershiprugby.com/tickets
Ulster v Saracens; ASM Clermont Auvergne v Leicester Tigers; Toulon v Leinster; Munster v Toulouse
Amlin Challenge Cup
Bath v Brive; Stade Francais Paris v Harlequins; Wasps v Gloucester; Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints