Gus­tard: First half was low­est point of my ca­reer

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Rugby Union - By Gary Baker

Har­lequins head of rugby Paul Gus­tard pulled no punches af­ter wit­ness­ing his side be­ing bul­lied to a big Gal­lagher Premier­ship de­feat by Worces­ter War­riors.

It was, re­mark­ably, Worces­ter’s first league win of 2020 as they per­fected the art of the mass driv­ing maul to rock Quins to a 26-0 half­time deficit, a lead way too much for the Lon­don club to come back from.

And it put a dent in their chances of a top-six place in the Premier­ship, which would give them a cher­ished Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup spot. Quins are eight points be­hind Bath and Northamp­ton with matches run­ning out.

Gus­tard said he was “em­bar­rassed” by his side’s first-half per­for­mance. He said: “We never saw that com­ing. That is not to say we are an ar­ro­gant team and we are go­ing to dom­i­nate teams phys­i­cally.

“The team that we picked, we didn’t think they would get steam­rollered and that is ex­actly what hap­pened. That first 40 min­utes was one of the low­est points of my coach­ing ca­reer.”

The first half killed any chance of Har­lequins get­ting any­thing from the match. Worces­ter scored from three driv­ing line-outs – with the back di­vi­sion adding more mus­cle to the pack for all of them.

Cor­nell du Preez, the No8, was on the bot­tom of the first maul from a five-me­tre line-out on the Quins line to be­gin the on­slaught. Cen­tre Ol­lie Lawrence popped over in the mid­dle of the next 13-man maul for the sec­ond.

Hooker Niall An­nett got the third as Quins were nowhere near able to han­dle the at­tack­ing line-out drives.

The fourth, for Worceser’s bonus point, was also a driv­ing maul from an at­tack­ing line-out, but this time Quins were caught nap­ping as the ball fell out of the mass of bod­ies for scrum-half Fran­cois Hougaard to snipe over from five me­tres.

Quins’ hor­ri­ble night was not helped by er­rors, in­clud­ing a straight­for­ward penalty kick to touch from cen­tre Ben Ta­puai in the first pe­riod which would have given them an at­tack­ing line-out

from five me­tres but, in­stead, the ball shot over the dead-ball line.

The Lon­don side did man­age to fight back in the sec­ond pe­riod, but the dam­age had al­ready been done.

Scot­tish fly-half Duncan Weir added a penalty to three con­ver­sions for a 29-0 lead, be­fore a dash down the right by Quins full-back Aaron Mor­ris al­lowed Eng­land wing Chris Ash­ton to seize a bounc­ing ball and dive over for a try.

Quins re­place­ment cen­tre Paul Lasike summed up the evening as he spilt a cer­tain try with the line at his mercy.

Har­lequins had a last pos­i­tive mo­ment when re­place­ment hooker Elia Elia squeezed the ball home for a con­verted try, but that was small beer in the wider con­text.

For his part, Worces­ter’s di­rec­tor of rugby Alan Solomons said: “I thought our set-piece was re­ally good, our scrum, our maul and our line-outs.”

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