Harlequins boss Paul Gustard praised the speed and strength of double try-scorer Nathan Earle after his side ended Exeter Chief’s 100 per cent record in the Premiership.
Quins showed a vibrancy and intensity that has been missing all too often this season and Earle’s two tries brought a deserved 28-26 victory which should have been more resounding.
A late intercept try gifted the visitors two bonus points as they closed to within two points and bagged a fourth try – the same number as the hosts, who also scored through skipper James Chisholm and Joe Marchant in a Friday night thriller at the Stoop.
It was only Quins’ fourth win in nine league outings.
“He’s been great for us, Nathan,” Gustard enthused about the 24-year-old winger, who was signed from Saracens in the summer.
“He’s big, he’s quick. He’s physical. You can see that with how he carries the ball. He carries it through traffic well.
“Defensively he was solid and he understands what we want him to do and he’s had a great nine games or so for us in the Premiership and we’re very glad to have him.
“I’ve coached Nathan since he was a little boy, so he understands the rudiments of how we defend too.
“The last few weeks we’ve been frustrated with our attack and I think we showed a lot more endeavour and I thought we showed a true version of ourselves tonight.
“It was probably the most joined-up performance of the season.”
Earle’s finishing was just one of many plus points for Quins, with Mike Brown looking determined to prove Eddie Jones wrong for side-lining him in the autumn internationals.
“He was exceptional,” said Quins’ head of rugby, “I thought Danny Care and Mike had a lot of nice interplay around the ruck and Mike, as always, was very controlled under the high ball, dangerous on the counter-attack, broke tackles.
“Of course he wants to add to his 70-odd caps but he also wants to win for Harlequins. He’s a one-club man and his desire and competitiveness is there in training and it was there again tonight.”
Alex Dombrandt, who ‘does the hard things simply’ was also praised, along with Jack Clifford, who was ‘outstanding’ according to his boss.
Gustard added: “The pleasing thing for me is we’ve got the most bonus points in the competition. We’re tough, we’re competitive and even when we lose, we get something out of the game, and we’re a hard team to put away.
“For me, that shows resilience, that shows character and togetherness and that’s what we can be proud of.
“We’ve defended well in some games and attacked well in some games and our set piece has been pretty solid in some games, but today our lineout [really] functioned and gave us a platform to attack and sustain momentum. Our defence was excellent and we got a lot of turnovers and forced a lot of errors.”