November 28, 2023

Harlequins coach Tabai Matson questions two-legged format


Credit: PA Images

Harlequins head coach Tabai Matson has expressed his disagreement with the two-legged Champions Cup format after Montpellier knocked out his side in the round of 16.

Matson’s men nearly staged a historic comeback but lost 60-59 on aggregate to their French counterparts with just one miss Marcus Smith Failed transformation separating the sides.

No reward

The 48-year-old doesn’t think it’s fair for teams that performed well in the group stage, given that Harlequins finished second in Pool B while Montpellier finished seventh in Pool A.

“I think it’s quite difficult. On reflection, we finished second in our group and they finished seventh in their group and they basically get a free crack,” Matson said.

“I’m not sure that in the last 16 there was an advantage for us. In the end, we won five (pool) games and they won two.

“But these are not sour grapes. They have been better than us in the last two games so they deserve to qualify.

“I have no qualms about it, but it makes the first part of the pool game wacky if they get two cracks and you don’t really get an advantage by finishing top of the table.”

Matson understands how he can present himself when discussing the format after his side are eliminated, but ultimately isn’t convinced that the advantages gained in the group stage actually materialize as a breakthrough.

“I think they know that,” he said. “When you relay this information now, it’s pretty gripey. These guys got knocked out and now they’re complaining about the format of the competition.

“I think the format was a response to what’s going on around Covid and the other issues and all that, so I fully understand that.

“When you step back and think, the team that comes first in the league (pool) plays against the team that comes eighth – there really is no advantage.

“The advantage is that you can play at home in the second leg, it’s not really an advantage.”

The New Zealander suggested introducing the two-leg format from the semi-finals onwards as it would offer more rewards to teams that performed well in the group stage.

“I think at this stage you might consider the teams that finished the Pool playing well getting an advantage,” he said.

READ MORE: Loose Pass: Champions Cup headshots, maps, fan behavior and a moment of reflection

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