DESPITE HAVING TWO tries in the bag before half time against Connacht, Harlequins boss Conor O’Shea was delighted with his side’s win in Galway.
The Premiership champions famously lost to the western province in the Heineken Cup last season when it appeared they would comfortably take a place in the quarter-finals.
On Saturday, they were a year older and wiser and barely put a foot wrong against a Connacht outfit intent on playing an exciting, expansive game.
“Do you come here and have an easy ride? I’ve been coming here all my life and you don’t,” asserted O’Shea shortly after the full time whistle had blown.
“You know it’s going to be difficult – they were getting stuck in at the break down as you’d expect and flying in. We had issues going through any umber of phases.
“But 19-9 down, I thought the boys showed a huge amount of mental strength just to stick to the gameplan.”
The plan was to keep possession and probe for openings, forcing Connacht to tap their energy sources to make tackle after tackle. When Connacht did have possession, they opted to do the same.
“You couldn’t (kick),” added O’Shea. “It was a pretty strong wind and you could see some of the kicks were just holding up – when I say ‘strong’ it’s not strong for Galway – but it was still enough that you (had to) keep the ball in hand.”
Central to that was ‘Quins stand-in stand-off Ben Botica, and O’Shea was greatly impressed by the composure shown by the young Kiwi while, in the same breath, he commended his team for beating both Connacht and Biarritz by more than seven points, thus denying them a losing bonus point.
“I thought the boys showed a massive amount to come and win. We’ve ‘nilled’ Connacht away, we’ve ‘nilled’ Biarritz at home and we have Zebre home and away to come.
“There’s a lot more to come from this team. We’ve learnt a lot. Ben Botica did well in a hostile environment, you learn more away from home about blokes and he was very composed.
“Maybe, he could have kicked the ball away a bit more in the second half, maybe, but it’s not the DNA of the team.”