Connacht 9-8 Harlequins, Heineken Cup
Robshaw fears the worse after loss
January 20, 2012
Harlequins struggled to get a foothold in the game against a physical Connacht side © Getty Images
Harlequins skipper Chris Robshaw admits the odds of progressing in the Heineken Cup are stacked against his side after their 9-8 loss to Connacht on Friday.
The defeat at a wet and windy Sportsground has seen Quins finish second in the pool, just a point behind four-time champions Toulouse - who suffered a surprise defeat at Gloucester. Having taken a 9-5 lead into the break, thanks to three penalties from Niall O'Connor, Connacht defended for their lives in the second half and frustrated Quins into submission. Sam Smith's early try was the high point for Conor O'Shea's men, who could only add a single penalty from Nick Evans after that.
The windy conditions were a factor when Evans missed a late kickable chance and the ball also squirted loose from a second half scrum as the Quins forwards battered away at a stubborn Connacht defence.
Speaking afterwards, Quins captain Robshaw said: "Playing into the wind, you always have to play a bit more with the ball and to only go down by four points at half-time, it was kind of ideal so to speak.
"We came out buzzing, got our feet on the ground, got a bit of momentum going but unfortunately we couldn't finish it off. It's hard to put into words how disappointed we are, it's a very low point."
The Aviva Premiership leaders could still sneak into the last-eight of the Heineken Cup, but they would require an unlikely run of results in the other pools over the weekend. Asked if the difficult conditions were a decisive factor, Robshaw insisted: "The conditions were the same for both sides, they probably played them a little better than us.
"We always knew it was going to be hard going into the wind. They're probably a bit more used to it than us, but that's no excuse. We're going to have to console ourselves tonight, look back on the video and hope that someone else slips up along the line. It probably doesn't look like (we'll qualify).
"No-one was complacent. We wanted to be in the knockout stages. We didn't just want to be there to make up the numbers - we came in here to give it a real go. Obviously we'll see where things end up on Sunday night, but in all honesty we probably will be back in the Amlin (defending the title we won last year)."
O'Shea was not holding out no hope of reaching the last eight as one of the best group runners-up.
"We are out of it," he said. "We needed to win tonight and I didn't look at the permutations. It's just one of those things. You will look back and see opportunities, you will question various things that happened in the second half, but we lost.
"We just have to take it on the chin. We cannot describe just how disappointed we are as a group to let a lot of good work in this Heineken Cup go to waste, but that's life and you get on with it and we have to focus on the LV= Cup next week."
Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood was left to savour a historic first victory in the tournament for his native province. A pitch invasion at the end showed just what it meant to the Connacht supporters, who have had to endure 14 successive losses for their side since last September.
"Even with the last scrum with nine seconds left I still wasn't convinced until the ref had blown the whistle and the ball was off the park, and people were invading the pitch," said Elwood. "Unfortunately in Connacht we don't make things easy, but I have to acknowledge the commitment of the boys.
"To defend like we did with the discipline we did, the commitment was excellent. Our tackle count was two or three times (what theirs was), but that's nothing new for us. I think everyone got their reward tonight - the players and the crowd, and it was not the prettiest of games - but we have been knocking on the door for the last 13 weeks so I am quite happy to take an ugly win, no problem.
"What it means is that we have the monkey off our backs. The lads now know that against one of the better teams of Europe we can grind out a victory if we need to, but to do that you have to do the simple things right."
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