Harlequins boss Conor O’Shea hailed his side’s tenacity after the defending Aviva Premiership champions dug out a narrow win in Big Game 5 against London Irish, writes Elliot Scarbrow.

Sixteen points from the boot of New Zealander Nick Evans, plus a Danny Care score and a late penalty try ensured Quins top the pile at the turn of the year with a 26-15 win over the Exiles.

By contrast, London Irish have now won just once in their last ten games in all competitions and are anxiously looking over their shoulders, despite 15 points from the point of Ian Humphreys. 

But Stoop chief O'Shea was not too bothered by the manner of his side's win as he maintained hitting top form in April was they key to success this term. 

O’Shea said: “The conditions were very difficult and it was frustrating. We made far too many handling errors.

“We felt we dominated the whole way through, but we just couldn’t get clear water to actually drive that home and we gave away some dumb penalties, which allowed Irish to stay in the game.

“They didn’t really come to play; they came to kick a lot of ball and live off our mistakes and unfortunately we made far too many.

“We take nothing for granted and that’s another win in the Premiership – we played brilliantly last week up at Northampton, but you don’t reproduce that every week.

“On days like this you need to dig it out and that’s exactly what we did to get the win.

“Your peak is in April and May – but to get there you have to win games and you have to continually turn up with intensity.

“After two difficult games, London Welsh have got within seven points in every Premiership game and if we don’t turn up at the Kassam Stadium with intensity next week, we will be in trouble.

“We’re well placed in the league and in the Heineken Cup, if we can do a job against Connacht next up in Europe, there’s something very exciting out there for us in April.”

London Irish boss Brian Smith admitted his side face a dogfight to retain their Premiership status after slumping to yet another untimely loss.

With Sale winning on Friday night against Worcester, the Exiles now find themselves just a point off the foot of the table but Smith is refusing to press the panic button just yet.

“I think we gave a decent account of ourselves in terms of effort level but we let ourselves down later in the second half and ultimately it cost us,” said Smith, who questioned the penalty count against his pack.

“We have to pay tribute to Quins, the amount of pressure they put on us in our red zone eventually told inside our own 22. They’re a good side but I’m still proud of my team’s efforts.”

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