Harlequins drew first blood in this season’s battles with Heineken Cup opponents Connacht, but coach Eric Elwood is not unduly worried, knowing there are more significant challenges ahead.
Although Quins won this pre-season friendly, Elwood was more concerned with his players coming through this final challenge unscathed ahead of the Pro 12 opener in two weeks.
“We can have no complaints. We were playing the English champions at nearly full strength, and we had a lot of kids out and were missing 12 players,” he said.
Quins set the pace with England scrum-half Danny Care and number eight Nick Easter grabbing two tries. Although Connacht replied with two penalties, George Lowe and Ross Chisholm added another brace for Quins to lead 26-6 at half time, and within two minutes of the restart left wing Sam Smyth had crossed for a fifth.
“The two tries before the break and the one straight after killed us off,” he said.
“But it is nothing to stress about. Quins were at a different level. We had a lot of kids out there and it was step up in class. Quins would have learned nothing from us, but the key for us was to give the younger players experience and that is always a plus.”
Young centre Robbie Henshaw, who last season won a Connacht Senior Schools Cup with Marist Athone, was “outstanding”, scoring Connacht’s only try on his senior debut.
However at 31-11, Quins did not let up. Danny Care added his second five minutes later, and although Connacht enjoyed a spell of dominance, it was Quins’ fullback Ross Chisholm who capitalised from a neat chip through from Nick Evans to complete Quins’ scoring.
“We earned more about our younger players and what they are capable of playing against a team at the top of its game, ” said Elwood. “However we also needed to come through with a clean bill of health.
“Our main concern now is to assemble our starting day squad for Cardiff as soon as possible. I will talking to Declan Kidney this week in the hopes of having our four tour players because we need them with the injuries we have, and then everything is geared towards September 1.”
Yellow cards: Connacht, Miah Nikora (17). Harlequins, Luke Wallace (23).
HARLEQUINS: R Chisholm, T Williams, G Lowe, J Turner-Hall, S Smith, N Evans, D Care, J Marler, J Gray, J Johnston, O Kohn, G Robson, M Fa’asavalu, L Wallace, N Easter
CONNACHT: M Jarvis, T O’Halloran, R Henshaw, M Fifita, F Vainikolo, M Nikora, K Marmion, D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, JP Cooney, M Swift, A Browne, J Muldoon, W Faloon, G Naoupu.
Replacements: F Bealham, A Flavin, P Reilly, M Kearney, D Gannon, J O’Connor, E McKeon, D Moore, J Carty, C Finn, J Loxton, M McCrea.
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