Director of rugby Conor O’Shea has warned Harlequins’ Premiership rivals his side are only going to get stronger and his injured stars will have to work hard to get their starting slots back.
Three first half tries set Quins on their way to a 22-6 win over Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham on Saturday and fire them into the top four.
Fly half Nick Evans opened the scoring on two minutes before in-form winger Charlie Walker and full back Mike Brown put Quins 19-3 up at the break.
It could have been more with Evans missing three of his five kicks at the posts in the first half and Brown squandering the opportunity to put Walker in moments before the youngster crossed for Quins’ second try.
Exeter came out hard after the restart and drew first blood with a second Gareth Steenson penalty, but they had no real answer to Quins’ sharpness at the breakdown and ambitious offloading.
And once Evans kicked his first penalty of the day to make it 22-6, the result was never in doubt,despite the Chiefs asking plenty of questions of the Quins defence in the final quarter.
And it was Quins’ opening salvo that left O’Shea licking his lips at the prospect of a full strength squad for the closing stages of the campaign.
“After the difficult start we had our aim was to be in the top four at halfway and we are,” he said.
“We will be ready for the run in and I think you will see a Quins team that will get stronger and stronger and hopefully more clinical.
“Injuries have given opportunities.
“When you think of the likes of Jordan Turner Hall, George Lowe, Tom Williams, Ugo Monye, Maurie Fa’asavalu, Rob Buchanan and Joe Gray have been out for a long period the other guys have stepped up.
“We’re creating chances and I starting to think of the warm weather and the hard grounds of April and May. At full strength, we’ll have competition for places.
“That was a very, very big win for us. We would have loved to have got the bonus point, but we played some magnificent rugby and if we can play like that we will be a tough team to play.”
Hooker Dave Ward, making his first appearance in a competitive game at rugby HQ, claimed the man of the match award producing two turnover that led to first half score scores for Evans and Brown.
And his contribution was not lost on O’Shea, who reminded Buchanan and Gray they had their work cut out to displace him in the front row.
“He is our number one hooker. The other boys have to come back and take the jersey off him,” he said.
“He has had his opportunity and is a team player. He is one of those people who are just really tough. You need people like that.
“He hardly trained this week because of a knock he picked up at Bath and he came out and performed like that.”