Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard is adamant that his side were the better team at Sandy Park as he battled hard to take the positives from a fifth-straight league defeat.

For so much of this season, Quins have looked nailed on to return to the top four for the first time in five years.

But they have been leapfrogged by Northampton Saints this past weekend after falling to a 17-15 loss at the home of the table-topping Exeter Chiefs.

Quins had their chances in the second half, as their totally dominant scrum ran the Chiefs ragged.

But Marcus Smith missed a late penalty while Alex Dombrandt was denied a try for a foot in touch and the Chiefs survived – much to Gustard’s displeasure.

“It was a really close game, small margins. We went toe to toe again with the best team in this country,” he said.

“It is frustrating because for me, we were the better team.

“Although we got outscored three tries to two, our defence was outstanding our set piece was excellent, our scrum was dominant.

“Our attack in the second half was really good. I can be proud of the team, Harlequins can be proud.

“That start rattled us a bit, we made one misread and kicked a little bit aimlessly.

“But after that unit was one-way traffic and just could not quite get over the line.

“It’s frustrating we couldn’t get the extra score to get the victory we wanted, we needed and probably that we deserved.”

Even though Quins have now fallen to fifth in the table, the improvement in Gustard’s first season at the helm is clear to see.

And with a length injury list that includes Danny Care, Nathan Earle, James Horwill and Joe Marchant, Gustard is keen to highlight the progression his side have made.

"For me, this team lost 50-15 I think to this team last season and we are now coming down to their home and losing 17-15. So if they are the best team in the country by a yard - which they are - we are not far behind," he added.

“We played Exeter second last game of last season and we got clipped properly.

“We have lost 17-15 to the team that have run away with our domestic competition this year and are disappointed, really disappointed because we were the better team.”