Harlequins star Nick Evans wants 'dynasty' of success
By Bryn Palmer
BBC Sport at the Cardiff City stadium
Evans held his nerve to win the trophy for Harlequins
Harlequins match-winner Nick Evans believes winning the European Challenge Cup can be the springboard for a new "dynasty" of success at the club.
The New Zealander landed a touchline conversion of Gonzalo Camacho's late try to snatch a 19-18 victory from Stade Francais in stunning fashion.
"I heard Sir Alex Ferguson say the first trophy's the toughest," he said.
"Now we have got this one, hopefully we can really push on and create a bit of a dynasty with the people we've got."
Evans, at 30, is one of the senior citizens in a side in which nine of Friday's starting XV were 25 or under.
Despite the galaxy of stars in the Stade line-up, the more inexperienced team overcame a jittery third quarter to prevail at the death and claim Quins' first silverware since winning the same tournament for a second time seven years ago.
Trailing 18-12 with three minutes left, 20-year-old prop Joe Marler broke through the Stade defence before finding Danny Care in support. The scrum-half brushed off one tackler before sending a delicate left-footed chip to the right corner that Camacho touched down.
"I just saw Joe go through and saw a little chance," Care said. "I stuck it on the left boot for some reason, I don't know why really, but it took a nice little bounce and Gonzalo finished it off superbly."
That still left Evans with a difficult conversion attempt from the right touchline, but the former All Blacks revelled in the responsibility.
"All those times on the training ground that you have dreamt about getting a kick like that," he said later.
"I dreamt about that moment for the last three days. I was excited to kick it, I wasn't nervous. That is what we live for, as kickers."
"If you score a try in the last minute and you need someone to convert it, you want him," Care said of his half-back partner. "He is a world-class player and a world-class kicker, and hopefully he can kick us to more victories like this."
After Evans's successful conversion, Quins still had to survive the final two minutes against a Stade side smarting from letting a winning position slip.
The Parisian outfit had already demolished a Quins scrum in the 58th minute to earn a penalty that put them 15-9 up, and had three more scrums midway inside the Quins half as the clock ticked down.
"The scrums before that we got a drilling, and when we gave away that penalty when they walked us (backwards), we had our head in our hands," recalled Marler, who had 22-year-old hooker Joe Gray and Samoan prop James Johnston, 25, alongside him in the front row. "We were hanging, but you have to keep playing and concentrating and we really stepped it up for those last three scrums."
Harlequins, who finished seventh in the Aviva Premiership, may have qualified for next season's Heineken Cup by the side door, but they are certainly worthy of a place in the elite competition.
Harlequins have now won the Challenge CUp three times
They finished top of a European pool including French Top 14 outfit Bayonne, beat two sides in the knock-out stages who have won the Heineken Cup twice - Wasps in the quarter-finals, Munster in the semis - and two-time Heineken finalists Stade in the final.
"It is massive for the club, but it is for the players and the supporters," said director of rugby Conor O'Shea, celebrating a trophy at the end of his first full season in charge.
"Next year we want to kick on in the Premiership undoubtedly, but we had a lot of guys playing in their first final here, even someone like Nick Easter [who is 32]. Now they have got Stade in their locker, and they have got Munster in their locker.
"We didn't play well tonight. We were alright in the first half but didn't get a lead. I wouldn't say we imploded at the start of the second half but we off-loaded in the wrong parts of the pitch.
"But we have played some great rugby and lost this season, there have been some pretty heartbreaking games. We weren't playing well but we hung in there. This team said they wanted to play a certain way and they didn't totally deliver it. But they did deliver silverware and I am delighted for them."
Care, at 24, has been the buzzing heart of the side for some time, while the likes of full-back Mike Brown, centres George Lowe and Jordan Turner-Hall, lock George Robson and captain Chris Robshaw are also likely to be involved in various England squads over the coming months and years.
We are a young side but we have a few experienced hands as well, and we want to win more trophies - that is why we play the game
Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care
"Conor emphasised to us that you only get maybe 12-14 years in your career if you are lucky," Care added. "These finals are the moments of your life and you have to make the most of them.
"We have always had a lot of self-belief and trust in each other but it has been a long old season so it was a great way to end. To go to Munster and win and then beat Stade in the final shows a lot of character.
"We are a young side but we have a few experienced hands as well, and we want to win more trophies, that is why we play the game. This is the first trophy I have ever won and it means a lot to us. Hopefully there are more to come."
The only blot on the immediate landscape for Quins is the future of try-scorer Camacho, who is out of contract and has been the subject of offers from elsewhere.
The Argentine wing confirmed contract negotiations are ongoing, while O'Shea vowed to do his utmost to retain an elusive and incisive runner.
"We have the salary cap, but we will keep on working hard until he puts pen to paper with someone else," added the Irishman.
"I thought he was magnificent throughout, in terms of the energy he brought. You want to keep a squad together and this guy is one of the most liked people in the squad. We will see what happens over the next few weeks but we will wish him well whatever happens."
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