Kiwi bemoans rivals' skullduggery
The free-scoring Harlequins might be no more, but flyhalf Nick Evans insists the lack of tries is down to opposition skullduggery.
The free-scoring Harlequins of a season ago might be no more, but flyhalf Nick Evans insists the lack of tries is down to opposition skullduggery rather than wasteful Quins attacks.
Conor O'Shea's troops have run in 29 tries in the first 12 games of the season - still good enough for joint top of the try-scoring charts, but inflated by their barnstorming start to the campaign.
In recent weeks tries have been harder to come by, indeed their two-try effort against London Irish last weekend was the first time the defending Premiership champions had managed more than one try in a league game since the start of November.
And while that is in no small part down to the winter weather, the fact that Evans has already kicked 38 penalties this season and is well on pace to comfortably exceed his points total from last season tells you a lot about how teams are trying to slow down O'Shea's side.
"We knew coming into the season as champions that teams were going to be up for the challenge of beating us and would lift their game accordingly," said the All Black.
"The standard in this league has made it really tough. And you only have to look at the penalty count against us to see how sides are trying to beat us.
"Especially at the ruck, they are slowing the ball down as much as possible because teams know how dangerous we can be with quick ball.
"So we have had to adjust as a team but those penalties have come our way and it's up to me as fly-half and kicker to make sure we continue to punish them.
"I welcome that responsibility, of course it puts a bit more pressure on me, but every kicker knows that anyway, I want to rewards the effort of the team in creating those chances.
"And so far this season I've managed to kick enough of them to get us over the finishing line. We have been a bit frustrated with the weather in our past couple of games.
"The conditions have not exactly been conducive to attacking rugby but we have ground out the results anyway. And that's a sign of our developing all-court game but we are still frustrated at some of the opportunities we let slide."
An ankle injury in the European Cup clash with Biarritz back in October saw Evans stuck on the sidelines for the best part of a month.
But with a more than able deputy in the form of Ben Botica, the Quins juggernaut carried on untroubled meaning the Stoop outfit enter 2013 top of every competition they have entered.
And Evans insists that the strength in depth at the club is the key to their impressive performances across the board.
"It's not just Ben [Botica], who has been fantastic, but it's players all over the pitch who have come in and done fantastically well," he added.
"Coming up now we have London Welsh, then two Heineken Cup games and two LV= Cup games so pretty much everyone in the squad is going to get game time.
"And the confidence we have in the younger guys, who already have so much experience, is such that we will be targeting wins in every one of those games."