Tabai Matson was full of praise for Saracens as they secured a 36-24 Gallagher Premiership win over his Harlequins side at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The league leaders established a 22-7 half-time lead after tries from Alex Lozowski, Nick Tompkins and Andy Christie cancelled out Quins’ fast start through Alex Dombrandt.
The away side flew out the traps again in the second-half with a Cadan Murley double plus one from Joe Marchant, but Sean Maitland and Maro Itoje crossed over to ensure defeat for Quins, for whom play-offs look increasingly distant.
Matson said: “I think they’re a complete team. You talk about the Sarries of old often out of habit, but they’re a complete team.
“They’re good on set pieces, they’ve got a ruthless mindset around defence and the physical part of the game, and they punish you when you make mistakes. So, it’s no surprise they’re number one.
“Before the game we talked about how we had to deliver one of our best games if we’re able to beat them, and we were off it a little bit.
“I sound like a broken record, but we will rue the missed opportunities, against a good side, to make it tough until the end for them.”
A point of contention ahead of the fixture was who would come out on top from England’s two number 10s, Marcus Smith and Owen Farrell, after neither held the shirt throughout the Six Nations.
Despite being on the losing side, Matson was impressed with Smith’s efforts after being dropped for the final international game, against Ireland.
He said: “It was pretty bruising in Dublin but he rolled straight in on Monday/Tuesday, and we need that.
“He was clearly one of the reasons we were in the hunt, the tries he set up were outstanding.
“He’s an assist magnet. So, he often is setting up a try for somebody else or creating a line break for someone else.
“That’s one of the reasons he’s one of the best, today he created a lot of opportunities for others, and got us around the field so it was a good performance from him.”
Quins sit eighth in the table, with the bonus point taken from north London leaving them 10 points off the top four with three remaining league fixtures.
But their coach was not willing to rule anything out.
He said: “I’m not sure of the maths now and what happens at the end of the weekend but if there’s a mathematical chance we will fight to the end, and that bonus point we took today might be the difference.
“But ultimately, I sound like a broken record because I’ve been saying this every weekend, it has got harder. But we’ll keep throwing the ball around until the end.
“We’re not out of the Premiership, it just got harder.”
However, they do remain in the Champions Cup with a trip to Cape Town’s Stormers on the horizon.
Matson added: “We’re on a plane to Cape Town tomorrow so that’ll help as a bit of a distraction.
“We’re battling in the league, and then an opportunity to go to Cape Town and deliver another good performance on the back of some of the good stuff we did today and actually push through to a quarter-final.
“That’s going to spin a lot of people’s wheels once we get over this hurting having been beaten by Saracens.
“We haven’t pushed through at this level in Europe and we’ve not won a European knockout tie, so this could be the week.”
See the rest of our Saracens-Harlequins match reaction here.