Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea revealed rugby union's salary cap was the only reason Sam Smith was leaving for Worcester after the 23-year-old winger denied his future club their first Aviva Premiership win of the season.
Smith scored a try in the corner and set up another for debutant centre Harry Sloan as Quins hit back from 13-0 down to triumph 21-20.
"We're sorry to see him go, but the salary cap is the salary cap," said O'Shea, who has signed England prospect Marland Yarde from London Irish for next season.
"We thought Worcester were picking on him - they've signed him but they were kicking all the balls to him - but Smithy's just an outstanding pro.
"He's a try-scorer, always has been. He'll be a good acquisition for them," O'Shea said.
Harlequins went into the match with an entire team on the sidelines, their lengthy injury list compounding the absence of England RBS 6 Nations stars Chris Robshaw, Danny Care, Mike Brown and Joe Marler.
"We knew we would have to fight tooth and nail through this international period," O'Shea said. "It's an incredible injury list and it's tough.
"We have played four games in this window with so many players unavailable, and we've won three and got a bonus point.
"We have inadvertently blooded some outstanding young talent which should stand us in good stead for the future, with players like Kyle Sinckler and another 20-year-old Harry Sloan, who has been out injured this season."
Quins were trailing 13-0 until Ben Botica's opening penalty a minute before the interval, but O'Shea said: "We didn't go berserk at half-time.
"There was no point because it was so not us in the first half, but we got ourselves back in the game and I thought our second-half performance was pretty good, given the circumstances.
"We could have pulled away but we didn't and were left clinging on for dear life."
The one-point defeat was Worcester's 16th straight loss of the season but director of rugby Dean Ryan, disappointed by last week's 24-12 home defeat by Sale, said: "I'm just really proud of the guys.
"It's been a pretty raw week for us. I was hoping we could get the right response, and we did.
"We are struggling physically to cope with such a small group. You can see when we start rolling the bench that things get a little bit ragged, and we couldn't really stem the flow.
"We're still fighting like mad and still feel we can get something in the back pocket before we go to the north-east (to face second-bottom Newcastle).
"There isn't any lack of work-rate from this group. This club just has to make sure that remains central to everything it does and then it expands its squad. Then we can grow the club in the way that we play."