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Departing Conor O'Shea tips Harlequins to be 'at top table for many years'

Published 14/05/2016

Conor O'Shea has predicted a bright future for Harlequins as he prepares to take up a new job in Italy
Conor O'Shea has predicted a bright future for Harlequins as he prepares to take up a new job in Italy

Conor O'Shea has predicted a bright future for Harlequins after his six-year reign as rugby director ended without a fairytale finish.

Quins' hopes of giving their departing boss European Challenge Cup silverware floundered against a powerful Montpellier side that ran out 26-19 winners at the Grand Stade de Lyon.

O'Shea takes over from Jacques Brunel as Italy national team boss this summer, with his Quins right-hand man John Kingston moving up to rugby director at the Twickenham Stoop and heading a coaching team that will include Graham Rowntree and Nick Easter.

"This is a great group of players and Harlequins is a great club," O'Shea said.

"We have come such a long way together, and there are great people, great supporters and great players at this club.

"They are a real family, and they will pick themselves up after this disappointment and I know they will be at the top table for many years.

"The team should be hugely proud of what they achieved in the six years I have been with them. It is a very special group of people, and I have been lucky to have the opportunity.

"Hopefully, what we've done for English rugby, for Harlequins and England, has been a real positive. But are we gutted at the moment? I am gutted for these fellas. They give so much.

"At 26-9 down, there were two choices - raise the white flag or fight. I am proud we took the second option.

"There will be reviews and people analysing us. All I know is that we have got a very special group of players, and I know the margins between winning and losing are so tight."

Australian Jesse Mogg scored a try in each half for Montpellier, while fly-half Demetri Catrakilis kicked four penalties and two conversions to underpin victory.

Nick Evans' three penalties meant Quins were in contention at half-time, but Montpellier's heavyweight South African-dominated pack flexed collective muscle at key moments to give French rugby its first Challenge Cup winner since Biarritz four years ago.

Wing Marland Yarde scored a late try that Evans' replacement Ben Botica converted - Botica joins Montpellier this summer - while he also added a penalty, but it was too little, too late, with Botica's last act being to kick possession away in the dying seconds. He cut a distraught figure afterwards.

Quins skipper Danny Care added: "We should be a top four club and pushing for silverware every year. We've slipped up the last couple of years, but moments like this can be used as motivation.

"Great clubs learn from big defeats, and we've got to learn and push on - unfortunately, without Conor - but most of the group is staying together with a similar coaching set-up."

Montpellier are also in strong contention for the French Top 14 league title this season under their World Cup-winning South African coach Jake White, and Mogg hailed his impact.

"We've been building towards this since Jake came in 18 months ago," he said.

"We had 20 new players this year, so it's pretty special to win something like this in the first European Challenge Cup final the club has played in. We've still got the Top 14 to come, but it's a special moment.

"Jake has brought the right players in. We've got a big pack with a lot of South Africans who get over the gain-line. It leaves the backs to use our skill-sets to get some tries."

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