'We'd 500 Harlequins ultras, stockbrokers and lawyers turned into these crazy fans'
Veteran scrum-half Danny Care has saluted the atmosphere generated by the 500 lucky Harlequins fans who were able to roar their team on as they fought back from a 0-28 deficit at Bristol to force Gallagher Premiership semi-final extra-time before going on to win 43-36.
A restricted attendance of just over 6,500 was allowed to attend the Ashton Gate semi-final and while the Bears supporters were scattered in a socially distanced way throughout the stadium, the travelling band of Harlequins were located in the same area and the noise they generated helped swing the momentum of the occasion the way of the London club.
Trailing by 28 points in as many minutes, you’d never have believed that a trip to Bristol rather than a possible away day at Exeter or Sale was what Harlequins had wanted in the weeks leading up to the semi-finals, but they felt that a particular black mark team statistic against the Bears could ultimately work in their favour.
Harlequins had led the league over the course of the season in terms of the number of turnovers won by any team and with Bristol said to be the side that lost the most turnovers, the scene was set for the London club to keep believing they could win against the odds, faith emboldened by Alex Dombrandt profiting from a Max Malins error to score their first points just before the interval.
“We absolutely loved it,” said Care, looking back on the incredible Harlequins comeback that now has them preparing for their first Premiership final since they lifted their one and only league title in 2012. “We couldn’t say it in the build-up but the team that we wanted to play was Bristol but we didn’t want to fuel any fire.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 19, 2021
“They didn’t need any fuel on the fire because the first 20 minutes we couldn’t get a finger on them, but we did want to go down to Bristol because the stats showed us that they do concede the most turnovers in the league and we feel like we are very good off turnovers so we thought if we have got a chance away at one of those teams it might be Bristol and it turned out we were right.
“The first 20 minutes I have never seen a team like it, they were absolutely unbelievable. Charles Piutau, Semi Radradra, Max Malins were unstoppable. We couldn’t get a finger on them but we finally took a bit of a step back, got a foothold in the game and got that first try towards the end of the half.
“At half time generally people would think you’re mad thinking you’d come back from this but we said if we get one try here you never know, if we two they are going to start getting worried about us and we all said if we get three tries this game is ours and we managed to do it,” continued Care, the veteran Harlequins scrum-half whose exceptional form this spring had him touted as a possible Lions tour pick.
“The fans, I have never known an atmosphere like it. We only had 500 of our fans there – we should have had a few more but Bristol did something with the other tickets. But it was like we had 500 Harlequins ultras, the stockbrokers and lawyers turned into these crazy fans and it just shows, I have talked about this so many times how I need fans to play.
“I’m 100 per cent convinced that if fans weren’t in that stadium Bristol are in the final this weekend and we’re not but our fans were unbelievable from start to finish. They are the reason we got over the line and we got them to a final which is what we really wanted to do.”
"I try and keep God on my side so he looks after me on the field"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) June 17, 2021
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