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Danny Care makes brutal admission as Harlequins exit Europe

By PA
Danny Care - Getty Images

Danny Care felt that Harlequins “messed up” in the first half after their Investec Champions Cup hopes were ended by semi-final opponents Toulouse.

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Quins were 19 points adrift at the interval before staging a thrilling fightback to trail by just five with more than an hour gone.

But Toulouse scored again after Quins hooker Jack Walker was yellow-carded, sealing a pulsating 38-26 win and place in the final against fellow European heavyweights Leinster at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 25.

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“We messed up in the first half – we gave them too many points – and unfortunately it was too much to claw back, even for us,” Quins scrum-half Care told ITV Sport.

“They are a brilliant team, world-class, and the final is going to be unbelievable.

“But we’ve shown we can go toe to toe with one of the very best in Europe. We back ourselves against anyone, and it is all down to the Premiership now.”

Quins rugby director Billy Millard agreed with Care’s assessment as Toulouse posted five tries during a dominant first 40 minutes.

Fixture
Investec Champions Cup
Toulouse
38 - 26
Full-time
Harlequins
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Millard said: “We were getting counter-rucked at the breakdown. We let them in for some soft tries with some poor breakdown work.

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“We didn’t start well. In these big games you can’t afford to have lapses, and we were poor in the first half, really.

“There was a lot of good stuff from today, and no injuries, and now we need to get back and prepare for a massive game (against Exeter) next weekend.

“We have got ourselves in positions in both competitions, so we have got to finish well. We will be gunning for the next two weeks.”

Quins remain strongly in Premiership play-off contention with two games of the regular league season left, and they will need to put their Champions Cup disappointment quickly behind them.

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They went blow for blow with record five-time tournament winners Toulouse, showcasing their exhilarating attacking adventure through tries from Marcus Smith, Cadan Murley, Will Evans and Tyrone Green, while Smith kicked three conversions.

Toulouse could not relax until wing Juan Cruz Mallia’s 69th-minute touchdown, which immediately followed Walker’s yellow card, and came after earlier tries by Antoine Dupont (2), Matthis Lebel, Peato Mauvaka and Thibaud Flament, with Blair Kinghorn adding three conversions and Thomas Ramos one.

Toulouse’s England international flanker Jack Willis can now look forward to a first Champions Cup final following Top 14 league title success with the club last season.

“It was a pretty tense one,” Willis said. “Quins threw everything at us, and we really had to put our best out there.

“We prepared for and respected Quins this week. We saw what they did in Bordeaux (Quins beat quarter-final opponents Bordeaux-Begles 42-41) – a bit of magic at the drop of a hat – and we are chuffed to get the win.

“I grew up watching these finals with my dad and brother, and to now be involved in one is pretty incredible.

“We have got an incredible opponent in Leinster, and we have got to go there and chuck everything at it.”

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