Why Quins has no regrets playing first-choice team in Exeter’s dead rubber

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Harlequins head coach Tabai Matson believes it was the right decision to field a full squad in their 47-38 loss to Exeter ahead of next week’s semi-final at Saracens.

Regardless of the result, Harlequins would still have finished third in the Gallagher Premiership, but opted to risk injury to ensure they were battle-hardened for their difficult task at the StoneX Stadium.

In a thrilling 13-try match, Quins narrowly missed, but a record-breaking crowd at Sandy Park was treated to royal entertainment.

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Exeter tries came from Jonny Gray, Stuart Hogg, Ian Whitten, Jack Nowell, Marcus Street, Sam Maunder and Joe Simmonds, who added six conversions.

Will Evans, Joe Marchant, Aaron Morris, Louis Lynagh, Lewis Gjaltema and Tyrone Green have scored tries for Harlequins. Marcus Smith converted three and Tommy Allan one.

Matson said: “We had to play with a full team because we weren’t involved in Europe and had only played twice in the last five weeks.

“We were disappointed to lose Aaron Morris to another injury for him but he’s optimistic it’s not too serious, although he won’t be available next week we’ve come through relatively unscathed.

“It was festival rugby but we learned a lot defensively as we were really tested by them as they are a phenomenal team who keep the ball superbly.

“Our defense has been great at times and it’s annoying that we haven’t lost a bonus point, but we have to move on immediately and focus on next week.

“It won’t be festival rugby next week because there’s no doubt the focus will be more on the physical.”

Despite their impressive bonus points win, Exeter only finished seventh and so missed the play-offs for the first time since 2015.

“Today was harum scarum but even though it was dead rubber with nothing to play for, I’m really glad we fought to the end and for once on the bright side of the result in a game tight to give us some momentum going into next season,” head coach Ali Hepher said.

“We had to overcome bouncing the ball going their way a few times and conceding a few soft tries.

“We had a lot of things thrown at us this season and at times we found it hard to believe we were still in the game.

“With a series of injuries and international call-ups, we had to play props and prostitutes in the last five, which had never happened before.

“You’re not throwing away a winning formula that has served us so well over the past six years, but it may need some tweaking as we’ve learned this season.”

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