Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam gave his players two choices before they came from behind to defeat Harlequins 27-19 in the Gallagher Premiership – fight back or head for the team bus.
Lam’s side gave a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance at the Twickenham Stoop, initially struggling in the first half as their attacking game failed to click.
All that changed after a talking-to from Lam, however, as Bristol bagged a try bonus point with their captain Steven Luatua and scrum-half Harry Randall leading the charge.
Lam said: “I just opened the door that went out to the bus and said ‘There are two doors you can choose’.
“‘If you’re going to continue playing like that, not as the Bears but just play as individuals, then just step on to the bus.
“‘But if you want to go back out there, go back out there and play as the Bears’, because we were woeful for the first 40 minutes.
“The opportunities were definitely there, but we had to do it as a group, so we had to go back out there, flick the switch and change the mindset and the boys started to turn it on and play as one team.
“These guys are a good side, but that was a good lesson to us and we still won the game, with five points, at a place where I haven’t won with Bristol.
“To get five points here is a massive effort”
Three penalties from Marcus Smith opened up a 9-0 lead for Harlequins, who thought they had scored through Wilco Louw only to be denied by the TMO, before Dan Thomas’ try hauled Bristol back into the game.
They went on to seize control in the second half through scores from Luatua, Randall and Niyi Adeolokun before Smith ran in a late consolation.
Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard said: “I thought in the first half we were very good as a team, all-round.
“I thought the defence was exceptional and we had a life and bounce about us that I expect and unfortunately we can point to that area before half-time, where we didn’t score when we elected not to go for the posts.
“We didn’t score the try through Wilco in that three minutes that we had.
“They then forced a turnover and scored a try to take it to 9-5, instead of us going 14 or maybe 16-0 up, so I thought that was a big tipping point.
“I thought the question that was asked [to the TMO] was probably the wrong way around – I can’t see why they couldn’t have awarded the try.
“It was a big decision and there were a few decisions we didn’t quite get today, but obviously in the second half they controlled territory and possession.”
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