A half-time change in their style of play paid dividends for Harlequins, according to coach Paul Gustard after the Londoners ground out an “ugly” 22-17 win over Bristol. In torrid conditions at the Stoop, Quins’ first-half tactic of playing their normal, expansive game bore no fruit, leading Gustard to demonstrate his pragmatic nature.
The hosts kept the ball in the tight far more after the break and were rewarded as a 9-9 half-time score turned into victory thanks to Martin Landajo nudging a perfectly-weighted kick in behind the Bristol defence for Joe Marchant to grab the decisive try.
“It was an ugly game, with small margins,” admitted Gustard. “It was about who could control territory better, the set-piece and handling the pressure and I’m obviously delighted we’ve come up on the right side. It’s a great try and that’s what you get with an 84-cap Argentinian [Landajo]. But there were some other great performances, and the four guys in the back row were excellent – Tom Lawday in particular.
“We were guilty of trying to bring a style to our play in the first half and we didn’t respect the weather, which is something we talked about before the game. That allowed Bristol, who are a good side, to put pressure on us and we had to ride it out.
“We’ve got five points from a possible ten (this season) which isn’t great but at the same time, it isn’t too bad. This league continues to get better and better and every side in the division can beat any other on their day.”
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Bristol remain above Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership table thanks to their opening-day obliteration of Bath and while they did not reach those heights at the Stoop, there were positives for Bears director of rugby Pat Lam to take.
“I’m really pleased with the effort and fight – we did a lot right – but ultimately, in games like this, we gave them too much and our discipline has let us down,” said Lam. “We had a chance to win it at the end and credit goes to Quins for keeping us out, but this week we’ll work on those little things to make sure we’re ready for Sale.
“It’s frustrating. We’re 9-3 up and in control and then out of nothing, we’re going in level. The first thing I’ll be doing on the bus home is looking at our penalty count and that’ll be a focus, for sure. I feel it’s a bit of a missed opportunity for us. We’ve done so much good work, with our kicking and managing of territory right up there but, again, we’ve been sloppy.”
– Press Association
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