O’Shea praises Harlequins self-belief

Conor O'Shea will leave Quins to coach Italy

Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O’Shea praised his side’s self-belief after they came from 18 points down to beat Exeter 30-29 on Sunday and so keep their English Premiership play-off hopes alive.

At 23-5 down, the match looked all over for the visitors at Sandy Park.

But the London club rallied, with Tom Guest’s try five minutes from time capping a remarkable comeback against Exeter.

Victory saw Quins move to within three points of fourth-placed Bath, meaning the two clubs will be contesting a play-off semi-final spot when they meet at the Twickenham Stoop on Saturday, the final day of the regular season.

“I know what I want us to do — our peak, our mountain that we talked about before the game is May 31 (the 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 (Sunday),” the former Ireland full-back added.

“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.

With 35 minutes left, Quins were 18 points behind before coming back to claim a win that said as much about their character as their skill.

“I am obviously emotional today because to be 23-5 down and to show the fortitude to come back to win,” said O’Shea.

“It has (felt like) play-offs for us over the past number of weeks in the Premiership.

“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.”

The first time Exeter were behind in the match was when Guest scored, with this loss ending their hopes of a European play-off place.

But Exeter coach Rob Baxter was proud of his side’s performance following their 55-12 thrashing by Sale last time out.

“You are disappointed when you lose, but what we had asked the players to show was commitment and they did that in spades,” Baxter said.

“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.”

He added: “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.”

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