Gloucester head coach George Skivington offered no excuses after his team fell to a 28-15 defeat at Kingsholm against Gallagher Premiership rivals Harlequins, who are reaping the benefits of Joe Marchant having spent much of 2020 at the Super Rugby Blues.

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The mid-table clash saw 1,000 spectators attend – including British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland – in a second crowd pilot venture following Quins’ game against Bath at the Twickenham Stoop earlier this month. But some of the Gloucester faithful might have wished they had stayed away as their team delivered an error-strewn display.

“I’m a bit confused. Flat is probably the word,” Skivington said. “We were excited coming into the game, and we put ourselves in positions to score about five tries, but we just dropped a few balls at the final hurdle. It was a lack of execution. Quins were very clinical in their approach and rightly won the game.

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“If a crowd of 1,000 can make that noise, it will be great to see the place full. I am disappointed that we couldn’t deliver a victory for them. I felt the boys stayed in the game and kept trying, but we dropped the ball at the crucial moments. We weren’t good enough, and I need to sit down and try to solve it.”

Gloucester suffered an acute case of stage-fright, with fly-half Danny Cipriani gifting Quins their opening try, blowing a score for Jonny May with a forward pass, then throwing an interception pass that led to Quins’ match-clinching third try.

Quins, though, never looked back following first-half tries by wing Cadan Murley and skipper Stephan Lewies as they consolidated sixth place in the table. Impressive fly-half Marcus Smith kicked 13 points, while substitute scrum-half Scott Steele added a third try, with Gloucester replying through touchdowns from Jake Polledri and Matias Alemanno, plus a Cipriani penalty and conversion.

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Quins head of rugby Paul Gustard said: “I felt we had absolute clarity about what we wanted to achieve. We got off to a great start, our kicking game was excellent and our kick-chase game was excellent. A lot of people played well, and I thought Joe Marchant was incredible. His energy in defence was exceptional. For me, he’s the best defensive 13 in the league, and that’s (without) talking about his attacking skill-set.”

Quins’ victory took them four points clear of seventh-placed Northampton with two games left – Wasps at home and Leicester away – and Heineken Champions Cup qualification for next season already secured.

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