Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

O'shea hails Quins stand-ins

Conor O'Shea was impressed with the performance of Harlequins' replacements

Director of rugby Conor O'Shea praised his stand-in stars after Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins returned to the top of the table with a 28-25 home win over Gloucester.

Quins went into the match without skipper Chris Robshaw, winger Ugo Monye, scrum-half Danny Care and prop Joe Marler, on duty with England.

"I thought the lads really stepped up," said O'Shea.

Karl Dickson produced a tap-and-dash penalty reminiscent of Care to create a try for centre Matt Hopper, a replacement for the injured George Lowe, Monye's deputy Sam Smith grabbed an interception try and Marler's replacement Mark Lambert produced a high-impact 80-minute performance.

O'Shea was also full of praise for former England number eight Nick Easter, who skippered the side in Robshaw's absence, and full-back Mike Brown, who responded with the opening try after being released from the England training camp this weekend.

He said: "Nick is an outstanding leader and Brown reacted phenomenally in the way he played tonight. His involvement in the game was huge.

"He's absolutely outstanding in the fundamentals of full-back play, he scores tries, he takes responsibility.

"I hope he gets the opportunity to play at home in a Test match from the start over these next few weeks.

"I'm not saying anything against Ben Foden, who is a great player - injured - and Alex Goode, in outstanding form, but Mike Brown for two years has been absolutely the best full-back in the country."

Nigel Davies, the Gloucester rugby director, said: "I'm disappointed because we didn't play particularly well but I'm very proud of how well the boys fought. The spirit in this team is great."