HARLEQUINS coach Tabai Matson heaped praise on Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt after the side’s stunning win over Bristol Bears last Friday.

In a rematch of last season’s Gallagher Premiership semi-final, Bears led 21-0 at one stage and led 24-7 at half-time.

However, a staggering 45 second-half points without reply saw Quins run away with a 52-24 victory at the Stoop.

Smith, who was a first-half substitute for Tommaso Allan, and Dombrandt were also both on the scoresheet with a try apiece - with six conversions for Smith - and were lauded by Matson after the contest.

He said: “Marcus Smith in this system is exceptional. Any time he gets into his groove he not only creates opportunities but is a real handful for the opposition. 

“The try he scored on the chip through shows a world-class skill set. He was a little bit rusty on some of his kicks, but this was his first game back so you expect that.

“I wouldn’t say Alex is unique, but he’s rare as a loose forward. He’s very skilled. His anticipation of where the line breaks are going to be means that he can put the hammer down 10 seconds earlier in his support lines and assists.

“He’s so skillful. He’s playing really well. I thought he played exceptionally well. Defensively he was good and got a couple of key turnovers.”

Quins pulled off a similar comeback against the Bears in the Premiership semi-final last season, and Matson admitted that the first-half defending was far from ideal.

He said: “It was a game of two halves, but we don’t want to be 21-0 down. That’s not the game plan.

“But we found a way. The guys recalibrated at half-time. They knew they had to defend a bit better and take the opportunities.

“At half-time there was a confidence that if we kept playing, we would take our opportunities, and we did.
“Nobody expected us to respond in quite the way we did. However, this team has been doing this all last year, so they know they can.

“This level of positivity is exciting. We knew it would be a high octane game of rugby but I certainly didn’t expect that.”

Harlequins are yet to taste defeat this season and will put their unbeaten record on the line when they play this Friday evening.

Matson’s squad will travel to the AJ Bell Stadium to take on Sale Sharks.