Harlequins 26-15 London Irish, Aviva Premiership
Smith confident of avoiding relegation
ESPN Staff
December 29, 2012
Exiles boss Brian Smith is confident of avoiding the drop

London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith insists that his team have all the attributes to avoid getting sucked into a relegation scrap with Sale Sharks, despite losing 26-15 to Harlequins at Twickenham on Saturday.

The result, combined with Sale's win over Worcester on Friday night, means that there is now only one point separating the teams at the foot of the Premiership and further intrigue was added when Sale's interim director of rugby John Mitchell decided to return to South Africa following the match, little more than a month since arriving at the north-west club.

I don't know what is going on at Sale. I don't wish any ill will on anyone. How they handle their affairs is completely up to them," Smith said. "We can only control how we handle ours. We have a rock solid coaching staff, we have rock solid senior players and it is up to us to make sure the younger players are rock solid. If we stay united and we fight together we will get out of it and in a funny twisted way we will be better for the adversity.

"My experience tells me not to look over your shoulder and not to worry about things you can't control. There are three teams in vulnerable positions. We are in the middle of that. The most important thing is we hold our nerve and focus on improving our performance and make sure our reaction to this is constructive. What's on our plate next is Gloucester and we have to go and get a result there. That is where our minds and hearts have got to be."

The ESPN team analyse Quins' latest success

The Exiles were in touch with Quins thanks to the unerring boot of fly-half Ian Humphreys, but when they conceded a late penalty try it meant they left Twickenham empty-handed, something Smith was not in total agreement with.

"We are bitterly disappointed with coming up short with no bonus point," Smith added. "Up front they were very good but I didn't believe our pack was overshadowed to the extent where 15 points came either from penalty kicks or the penalty try awarded at the scrum. Normally the protocol for a penalty try is that it is on the third penalty. They did have us by the throat on our own line so we can't be too disappointed with that."

For Smith's opposite number Conor O'Shea, the win brings an end to a year in which Harlequins won their first-ever Premiership title and leaves them in pole-position to retain the trophy.

"We are exactly where we want to be," O'Shea said. "We got the win which is all important. This time last year we had lost two games of rugby. Now we have lost three games of rugby in 2012 - 15 out of 18. We know the levels we can get this team to and that's what excites me."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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