Harlequins 19-18 Stade Francais, Amlin Challenge Cup Final, May 20
Evans plays down Challenge Cup heroics
May 20, 2011
Nick Evans slots a penalty during his side's stunning win over Stade Francais © Getty Images
Nick Evans insisted that he was merely doing what he was paid to do when he slotted a last-gasp conversion attempt to win the Amlin Challenge Cup for Harlequins on Friday night.
Quins were trailing 18-12 to Top 14 outfit Stade Francais with just over two minutes of normal time remaining when winger Gonzalo Camacho crossed in the corner to draw the English outfit to within a point. Evans then held his nerve quite brilliantly to convert from a difficult angle to seal a dramatic victory by the narrowest of margins.
"All those times on the training pitch you dream of moments like that one," he said. "I was excited to have the kick - I wasn't nervous. That is what we live for as kickers."
Not only did the victory represent Quins' third Challenge Cup success, following their previous triumphs in 2001 and 2004, it also secured Conor O'Shea's men a place in next year's Heineken Cup. "Being in the Heineken Cup means everything - it's where we want to be, we feel we should be there. It's a long time since 2004. I'm so pleased for the guys and the fans, so many of them came here tonight. We never give up and although it wasn't pretty, it shows the character Conor O'Shea has brought to club."
"Credit to the whole team. We never gave up, and I think we have shown that throughout the season. We got ourselves out of jail, got the win and got the silverware. I enjoy it with Quins, that's why I signed for another couple of years. I heard Sir Alex Ferguson say the other day that winning the first trophy is the toughest with a group of players. Hopefully now, we can push on and create a bit of a dynasty."
Meanwhile, Quins' veteran No.8 Nick Easter was overjoyed at that club finally managing to have landed a major title after seven fruitless years at The Stoop. "I've been here a long time and we haven't won any tangible silverware, so this is massive," he said. "We didn't play very well in the second half at all, they (Stade Francais) controlled the game. But credit to the guys, we never say die."
And, like Evans, Easter is now looking forward to competing in Europe's premier cup competition next season. "This tournament has been great but we want to move forward," he said. "We want to be playing the best. We were nowhere near as good tonight as we were against Munster (in the semi-final) but we've got a good team spirit here."
Quins rugby director Conor O'Shea admitted his side had been far from their best but welcomed their good fortune. "We didn't play well tonight," he said. "We've lost some pretty heartbreaking games this season, but my wife always said to me we would get some luck at the end of the year, and we did. We hung on in there and never gave up.
"Across the pitch, we didn't have the greatest of games, but we kept on playing and trying - that's the motto of the team. It might be Gonzalo's last game for the club, but if it is, what an incredible to way sign off. I thought he was magnificent throughout the game."
Stade struggled to contain their emotions at the end, with captain Sergio Parisse attempting to make his feelings known to Irish referee George Clancy. And the Parisians' head coach - former Leinster boss Michael Cheika - did not hold back in his post-match press conference.
"We are pretty devastated," he said. "We deserved a lot better, I think. Once again we came undone due to the shortcomings of, you know. I don't think I should say it because I will only get in trouble.
"We are very disappointed. We made some small mistakes which Harlequins were very good at taking advantage of, some snippets of the game when they got through us."
Stade were penalised at a late scrum as they tried to establish field position and rescue the game, but Cheika added: "That, unfortunately, was a joke (being penalised at the scrum). We pushed them off the ball. The areas where we dominated in the second half, the referee took our advantage away. It's a shame.
"Sergio was a bit upset at the end. I went to take the player away from him (Clancy) to help him, and he carried on with fear. He didn't want to explain to me, he didn't want to do anything.
"It's big stakes. We deserved to win, and I hope it is not perceived as just sour grapes. I am trying to be as measured as I can - I thought we played very well."
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