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Harlequins 28-18 London Irish, Aviva Premiership, December 27
Quins are contenders - O'Shea
ESPNscrum Staff
December 27, 2010
Bob Casey walks off the pitch after being shown a yellow card, Harlequins v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, Twickenham Stadium, London, England, December 27
London Irish's Bob Casey is yellow carded during the game but Toby Booth later admitted there could have been more © Getty Images
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Conor O'Shea believes Harlequins propelled themselves into the Aviva Premiership title mix with their 28-18 victory over London Irish at Twickenham.

George Lowe's 61st-minute try proved the difference in a stop-start game that failed to live up to the spectacle hoped for by the bumper crowd of 74,212. Nick Evans kicked seven penalties and a conversion for Harlequins while all the London Irish points came from the boot of Chris Malone.

For the Exiles it was an eighth straight defeat in all competitions but they remain fourth in the Premiership table while Quins' victory lifts them to sixth.

O'Shea said: "From our point of view, we definitely needed that win more than they did. Between third and seventh there are only seven points. It is tight. If we had lost there would have been a 10-11 point gap, which would have been too much.

"We are in the mix in the Amlin, the LV and I think we have put ourselves in the mix today in the Premiership with that win. This win allows us the chance to get into the top four and we have a lot of home games coming up. That was a home game for us today and it is important we win our home games.

"A loss after the way we played against Saracens would have been hard to take but there is more to come from us. We can play a lot better. In our last nine games we have won six, drawn one and lost two - and I don't think we are playing as well as we can.

"The crowd might not have seen huge entertainment in terms of the rugby spectacle but as the game wore on it got better and the defence towards the end shows a group of players from my point of view that are willing to do anything for each other.

"That is not coaching, it is a bond that has been created."

London Irish boss Toby Booth admitted his side will have to head "back to the drawing board" after yet another defeat. The Exiles are without a victory since October but he insisted there was no crisis at the Madejski Stadium.

"We have had a wretched run of results and I won't hide away from the fact but we are only half way through the season," said Booth. "It is very disappointing. We are obviously doing a lot of things to make sure this doesn't continue and still we haven't found the formula.

"It will be back to the drawing board tomorrow. We will try not to be too over-reactive but build some confidence and a performance going forward. The realism of what we have been through has left a scar. But we have to dust ourselves down because it is not going to right itself.

"We have to look at how and why and when we can do things better. That is the challenge we face and I will certainly not shy away from that challenge and I never will."

Referee Andrew Small showed one yellow card to each side but his handling of the breakdown led directly to the stop-start nature of the affair.

"I was surprised there were not eight yellow cards," said Booth. "It was a fantastic occasion and I don't think it was the spectacle it could have been because of the mess in the tackle area. "Players have a responsibility in there and if they don't take it then the referee has a responsibility. He could have been tougher for both sides."

Although Harlequins should have had another player sin-binned late in the game as London Irish cranked up the pressure, Booth was more frustrated that his side spurned the shot at goal that would have earned them a losing bonus point.

"You coach a group of players to make decisions on the pitch and the reason you do that is so it becomes second nature in the big games," said Booth. "I back my players 100% and I always will. As the scoreline turns out, of course we should have come away with something."

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