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'We are all being thrown curveballs - we had a couple of curveballs last night'

By PA
Marcus Smith /PA

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Harlequins head coach Tabai Matson hopes his side will have the chance to build on their great start in the Heineken Champions Cup next month following their 43-17 victory over depleted Cardiff.

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The Gallagher Premiership champions made it two wins from two games in the competition, but this fixture was one of just five to take place this weekend, with Covid-19 wreaking havoc.

And with travel restrictions between France and the UK coming into force on Saturday there are fears of a repeat of last season, with the group stage having to be abandoned in January.

Matson said: “I think we are all being thrown curveballs – we had a couple of curveballs last night (Friday) that led to a couple of academy guys being called up at the last minute.

“I think all we can do is follow the regulations and hope for the best.

“With the calls they made yesterday, and in the weeks to come, who knows?

“We were probably just lucky that we had a one o’clock game and had two teams that can play, so hopefully that will put us in the box seat in January.

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“You wouldn’t have thought it in the first half, but the team really has got high expectations about pushing into the second stage of the competition, so we can only control what we can control.

“The Heineken Champions Cup, for this club, we haven’t gone long in for a long time, so it’s good to be in a position to push a bit further.”

Despite tries by Danny Care and Marcus Smith, the two teams went in level at 17-17 at half-time, as scores by Cardiff youngsters Cameron Winnett and Theo Cabango sandwiched James Botham’s effort.

But Quins pulled away in the second half, with Alex Dombrandt grabbing two tries and Joe Marchant and Andre Esterhuizen also going over.

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Cardiff academy manager Gruff Rees said: “We had to back up a tough physical effort from last week (against Toulouse), but we did that.

“We enjoyed our rugby for the most part and, 55 to 60 minutes in we were well in it – we got held up over the line – but then credit to Harlequins, who squeezed us a little bit.

“We were punched out, I guess, trying to play catch-up with their bench coming on and it got a bit stretched.

“But, overall, it’s been a great couple of weeks for the club in terms of playing in this competition and playing some good rugby in this competition with a mix of players you would have never thought of four to six weeks ago.

“We’ve come from totally different backgrounds, but it’s been developmentally brilliant for some of our academy boys to be around the senior players.”

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