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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 April, 2005, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Quins relegated from Premiership
Quins hooker James Hayter
Harlequins have been relegated from the Zurich Premiership after suffering a heartbreaking 22-23 loss to Sale.

Five teams were in with a chance of being relegated on a dramatic final day and Harlequins looked to be safe after taking a comfortable 22-13 lead.

Northampton and Worcester each faced the drop but Mark Cueto's stunning try on 71 minutes and Jeremy Staunton's missed penalty sealed Harlequins' fate.

Leicester, meanwhile, claimed top spot thanks to a 45-10 win against Wasps.

Leeds were also in relegation trouble and at one stage were 6-0 down against Bath and could have occupied the relegation spot if their opponents scored any more points.

However they bounced back to claim the 10-6 win which sealed their safety and which also denied Bath third place in the table.

That was the most expensive kick in British rugby
Mark Evans on Jeremy Staunton's missed penalty

London Irish were the final side that could have gone down but Harlequins' defeat meant their 23-16 defeat against Newcastle was academic.

It was an incredible way to end the 2004/05 campaign and there were six changes to the basement position throughout the afternoon.

Harlequins have never been out of the top flight since league rugby started in 1988 but emotional Quins boss Mark Evans refused to criticise his players after the game.

"The players are very quiet - there is a lot of emotion swirling about. We're in a state of disbelief at this stage," he said.

Quins boss Mark Evans
Evans faces the press after Harlequins were relegated

"But I told the lads I was very proud. I couldn't have asked for any more - we deserved to win.

"They were energetic and enthusiastic. If we'd gone out and not played it would have been desperate.

"We had to give it a go and that's what we did. It's a tough day for the club but we won't go under."

Quins never recovered after losing their first eight games of the season but could have claimed safety if Jeremy Staunton's late penalty had drifted over.

"That was the most expensive kick in British rugby," he said. "They don't come any bigger than that at club level.

This is a Premiership club that is going places, anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that
Worcester boss John Brain

"Jeremy struck it really well, it just drifted wide of the left post. He's in bits but we'll pull him back together.

"These things are decided on such small margins. There is such little difference between sixth and 12th. I don't think you can put your finger on any one thing we did wrong.

"We had a very poor start - those first eight games when we lost put us in a difficult position. But there was never a stage when I thought we were doomed to go down."

Worcester, who were promoted from Division One last year, were favourites to go straight back down but defied the odds to stay in the Premiership for another season.

"We are very happy," said coach John Brain. |To have achieved nine wins this season is based on recruiting good players, and we've got a good coaching team together and support behind us.

"This is a Premiership club that is going places, anyone with a modicum of intelligence can see that.

"We recruited properly, we have got a good captain in Pat Sanderson, and this is a tremendous achievement for everyone at the club."

Northampton Budge Pountney could hardly contain his relief after his side just stayed up.

"Initially, there was a bit of despair right at the end, but then there was elation when we heard the Quins result," he said.

"We will breathe a deep sigh of relief. Everyone loves the drama, but look at Quins now, because there are people there who are probably going to be made redundant."

Interview: Harlequins boss Mark Evans

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Zurich Premiership table
Saturday 14 May
    P PD PTS
1 Leicester 22 342 78
2 Wasps 22 119 73
3 Sale 22 71 60
4 Bath 22 41 58
5 Saracens 22 -44 57
6 Gloucester 22 -80 47
7 Newcastle 22 -121 47
8 Leeds 22 -51 43
9 Worcester 22 -128 42
10 London Irish 22 -43 40
11 Northampton 22 -63 40
12 Harlequins 22 -43 38


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