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Tabai Matson's brutally honest admission after 2 pt victory over Exeter

By PA
Tabai Matson /Getty Images

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Harlequins boss Tabai Matson admitted Exeter were unlucky to leave Twickenham Stoop as the victims of a 14-12 defeat in a repeat of last season’s Gallagher Premiership final.

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The Chiefs played the entire second half with only 14 men after Alec Hepburn was sent off for a dangerous clearout of Joe Marler that saw the England prop land on his head.

Quins then butchered a series of chances in driving rain with the score level at 7-7 and it was Exeter who struck next through replacement hooker Jack Innard in the 65th minute.

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The stage was set for a defiant victory, but Andre Esterhuizen plundered a 79th-minute try set up by Marcus Smith, who then landed the winning conversion from the touchline.

“Exeter were gritty, you’ve got to give them credit. Why do we do this for a living?! It is a bloody terrible job but it keeps you living!” Matson said.

“One thing I love about this team is they create enough opportunities to get the scoreboard going.

“We will review the terrible execution because there were probably four genuine chances to score against 14 men that we completely butchered.

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“But you have got to tip your hat to Exeter – what a gritty group of men. They probably deserved a little bit more than that.”

Smith executed a pinpoint kick for Esterhuizen to grab and score, dotting down in a pool of water, but there was better to come from England’s fly-half as he nailed the trickiest of conversions to seize a dramatic late victory.

“That shows a top-class player, to kick from the sideline with the game on the line. You don’t coach that, it’s locked in,” Matson said.

“He’s got really high standards. His goals are to try and become a world-class player, but a player with his expectations will go through his performance and go ‘nah’.”

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Exeter head back to Devon with a gutsy losing bonus point in the bank and director of rugby Rob Baxter could only admire the fight shown by his players.

“You look at it and you’re really pleased with huge parts of it and then you come up a little bit short, which is always a little frustrating,” Baxter said.

“Everyone knows that yellow and red cards have a huge effect on games and we weathered that pretty well.

“We’re disappointed not to get more, but at the same time we’ve done a lot of good things. We did everything we could have to give ourselves a chance.”

Baxter revealed that England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie missed the game because of illness.

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