Premiership rugby: Harlequins will ‘fight to the bitter end’ for play-offs

Harlquins suffered a surprise 21-15 defeat to Worcester Warriors on Saturday night but outgoing director Conor O'Shea vows the side will claw their way to the end if they have to.

Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O’Shea refused to give up on his side’s chances of securing a Premiership play-off spot despite a surprise 21-15 defeat to Worcester Warriors at the Stoop on Saturday.

O’Shea saw his team deservedly beaten, their seventh defeat in nine games since he announced he was leaving the club for Italy at the end of the season.

A weary Quins side never threatened the try-line and had to rely on five penalties from Ben Botica to get on the scoresheet.

O’Shea said: “It’s been an eight week window and been massively difficult for the players. It’s been a one-off but we’ll still fight to the bitter end.

“We have loads of injuries but we’ll get our international players back and give it a real go at Northampton next week.”

Tom Heathcote kicked three penalties and a conversion for Worcester and they did score the only tries of the game.

The first was for centre Wynand Olivier and the second came from their skipper GJ van Velze in the most controversial of circumstances.

With Worcester leading 11-6 after 29 minutes Quins winger Henry Cheeseman raced along the touchline when Worcester scrum-half Francois Hougaard appeared to force him into touch as he threw the ball backwards.

The touch judge put his flag up and most of the players stopped but Van Velze picked up the loose ball and ran 40 metres to score with Botica chasing in vain.

The try was reviewed and the TMO saw no problem and told the referee to award the score, much to the disgust of the home crowd and the Quins players.

O’Shea said: “It shouldn’t have been given; the touch judge put his flag up.

“It’s tough to take and I’d like the officials to own up to their mistake.

“However, it’s not the reason we lost as Worcester had a full strength team and were the more accurate.”

Worcester coach Dean Ryan said of the controversial try: “The try was given immediately by the referee and it wasn’t pivotal to the game.

“We frustrated them and we were good defensively against the best attacking team in the league.

“We had a few opportunities, which we didn’t take and it wasn’t one of our best performances.”

It was the first time Worcester had won three consecutive games in the Premiership since March 2007 and Ryan said: “We’ve stayed confident and we want to take this club in a different direction.”

On Friday night Bath edged Newcastle Falcons 21-19 in a battle of bottom-feeders, with the hosts in ninth on 33 points and Newcastle 11th on 22. Both are relieved of the threat of relegation thanks to woeful London Irish, bottom on 13 points.

Sunday will see leaders Saracens in a tricky test away to play-offs chasing Leicester Tigers, who are fifth. They will feel the pressure with second-placed Exeter Chiefs, two points behind at the top, hosting Northampton Saints.

Third-placed Wasps welcome Sale Sharks and Gloucester have a chance to pad their points total against Exiles away.

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