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'That was the speech': What Harlequins inspiringly said at half-time versus Bristol

By Liam Heagney

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Harlequins skipper Stephan Lewies has hailed veteran Danny Care for his influence in helping the rejuvenated Londoners to qualify for their first Gallagher Premiership final since they won their one and only English league title in 2012. The scrum-half was a youthful presence in the Quins line-up nine years ago when they ambushed Leicester at Twickenham and the now 34-year-old has been rolling back the years in recent months with a sumptuous run of form that even had him touted as an outside pick for the 2021 Lions. 

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Harlequins looked to be serious trouble when head of rugby Paul Gustard exited the club in January but seasoned campaigners such as Care, Joe Marler and Mike Brown ensured they didn’t hit rock bottom. Instead, they embarked on an uplifting run of results during the spring and while the Newcastle-bound Brown has played his final game for the club due to suspension, the immense influence of Care and Marler was there for everyone to see during last Saturday’s incredible semi-final comeback win at Bristol. 

It’s an old-stager impact that rookie skipper Lewies has now saluted ahead of this Saturday’s final versus defending champions Exeter. “The younger lads have been phenomenal and the older heads, Danny Care has been playing like he is 22 again. 

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“Marler, for a prop, was on the pitch for 94 minutes which is an absolute joke, but the big thing is the leadership group has been stepping up week in week out. They have been performing for us and that has been big,” said Lewies, who went on to explain that Care addressed the Harlequins squad some weeks ago about the 2012 title win while he was also a sounding board last year before the South African lock agreed to take over the club captaincy.

“Three weeks ago we had a chat around it. Danny stood in front of the team, told the team what it meant for him personally and then you have the likes of Nick Evans still here and all those guys, Jordan Turner-Hall. Every now and then they just drop in a little bit of what it meant for them back then and three weeks ago before the playoffs we had a big chat about it.”

Regarding the captaincy which he was given in 2020, Lewies added: “When they first asked me I was, ‘Are you guys sure?’ It was a bit of a shock. I was only here for one season when they approached me and it was a huge honour but I said I needed a day or two to think about it as regards to I am a firm believer you have to have the backing of the squad to achieve anything. I phoned Marler, Mike, Danny, a few of the boys and said, ‘Listen, I have been offered this but I won’t accept it if I don’t have your backing’. They all said they were behind me and the way they have been helping me this season has been brilliant.”

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Harlequins trailed Bristol by 28 points at one stage during their semi-final but after Alex Dombrandt cut that gap by five points just before the break, Lewies soon realised that a successful comeback was on the cards. “It was quite calm. When the half-time whistle went we all jogged back in and I was running past a few of their boys and I could see their forwards were tired, breathing deeply. Really, when you are up by 28 points at half-time you are smiling and you have a buzz around you, you’re not generally tired. 

“We went into the huddle, Marler spoke really well to the boys, the coaches stayed out for a little bit. I spoke and just asked the boys to believe. We said normally you get guys who are this far back saying they believe but they don’t really believe but we just said we really need everyone to believe. If everyone believes we stand a chance and then to score first after half-time. That was the speech. The coaches came in and gave us some technical stuff to work on and the rest is history.”

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'That was the speech': What Harlequins inspiringly said at half-time versus Bristol

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