Harlequins director of rugby Conor O’Shea hailed his side’s never-say-die attitude after seeing them claim a stunning late victory over Exeter that kept alive their Aviva Premiership play-off hopes.
Tom Guest’s try five minutes from time earned Quins a remarkable 30-29 comeback triumph at Sandy Park, and they can now pip Bath to a semi-final spot if they beat the west country side at home next Saturday.
Bath currently occupy fourth place with 66 points, while Quins are three points back, meaning there is all to play for at the Twickenham Stoop in the final round of the regular season.
O’Shea is already looking forward to that match and says his players are well up for the challenge as well.
He said: “I know what I want us to do – our peak, our mountain that we talked about before the game is May 31 (Premiership final).
“I don’t know if we’ll get there but we’ll give it one heck of a shot. The bit is between these guys’ teeth and you could see that today.
“The belief within this group in our game and each other has shone through – they just never say die. They played to the bitter end and I just can’t give them enough credit. They are excited, they cannot wait to get to the Stoop at the weekend.
“It will be winner takes all, it will be a straight shoot-out, but we will be excited by it.”
O’Shea, whose side trailed by 18 points with 35 minutes to go before staging a superb fightback against Exeter, added: “I am obviously emotional today because to be 23-5 down and to show the fortitude to come back to win.
“It has (felt like) play-offs for us over the past number of weeks in the Premiership. We played magnificent rugby against Sale, we played an incredible match against Leicester and came out on top and showed belief today.
“We knew that we never had room for a slip-up and that adds pressure. We now know that it is all in our hands – a one-point win will do but we will go about it playing it our way so it will be brilliant at the Stoop.”
Exeter never trailed in the match until Guest’s late match-winning score put Quins ahead for the first time, and the defeat ended the Chiefs’ hopes of a European play-off place.
Head coach Rob Baxter, who wanted to see some pride restored within the Exeter ranks following their heavy defeat to Sale Sharks last time out, said: “You are disappointed when you lose, but what we had asked the players to show was commitment and they did that in spades.
“It just shows that when you get most of the way you want to play and the quality is correct, then we are very competitive side.
“Yes, there was the odd individual error or poor decision or whatever, but that is summed up as losing the game. But at the same time that is where we are and I have to be very careful that I don’t get too frustrated when we have actually put in a full, committed performance.
“Today was about playing with intensity, enthusiasm and physicality, and the job of the coaches is to keep improving some of our qualities while that is going on – not the other way round.”
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