Harlequins centre Matt Hopper insists losing their unbeaten start to the season to title rivals Saracens will not quash his side’s aspirations of retaining their Aviva Premiership crown.
Flying high after a convincing victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road, the champions were looking to maintain their 100 per cent start as they welcomed Sarries to the Stoop.
But a flawless kicking display from Owen Farrell secured the visitors an 18-16 victory to end Quins’ seven-game unbeaten run.
Hopper admitted his side are yet to hit the heights of last year but commended Quins’ defensive showings which have seen them concede just one try in 320 minutes of rugby.
And the 27-year-old is confident if his side can begin to mirror their impressive attacking performances in training on the pitch, they will get back to winning way against Exeter Chiefs.
“It is all about the bigger picture. The end goal is the season and to win trophies at the end of the year,” said Hopper.
“We are playing some really good rugby but I would say we haven’t quite hit the peak of last year just yet which is to be expected but the style of rugby that we are playing is really good.
“Defensively we have been very good and it is very encouraging. Conceding only one try in the last four games is a huge positive for us considering we have played Leicester away and now Saracens.
“Attacking wise we were getting the opportunities at the weekend and forcing them to give us penalties but unfortunately Nick [Evans] couldn’t convert.
“We need to start putting more of what we doing in training into our games.”
After losing their perfect record this season Quins now find themselves in unfamiliar terriroty – looking up at Northampton Saints as they sit second in the Aviva Premiership table.
But one man who knows the intricacies of Premiership rugby more than anyone is perhaps former Sarries and Bath lock Danny Grewcock having appeared in the competition every season 1997 before retiring in 2011.
And he believes that this season is set to be the closest yet, but can’t see a scenario where Conor O’Shea’s troops don’t feature in the final say.
“We seem to say it every year but from the Premiership down rugby in this country is getting tougher and tougher, all the way down to the National Leagues,” said SSE ambassador Grewcock.
“This season is no different and when you consider that Saracens won the league the season before and then Harlequins won it last year then you see that different clubs are challenging all the time.
“This season has started really strongly and there are a number of clubs that you would say will be up their fighting for the top four come the end of the season.
“You have to say that as defending champions Harlequins are favourites but they are probably twice the amount of teams than semi-final spots available and I think it will be a very close run thing.”
SSE Rugby Energy is dedicated in helping clubs across England save money on their energy bills. To find how your club can start benefiting from these savings log-on to SSErugby.com