In the end, Harlequins’ failure to reach the Premiership play-offs came down to a matter of inches – and director of rugby Paul Gustard insists his club will go to great lengths to look after a ‘hurting’ James Lang.

Replacement fly-half Lang saw a late penalty, taken from inside his own half, fall agonisingly short of the mark, Quins tumbling to a 27-25 defeat at the hands of Wasps on the final day of the regular season.

Had the 24-year-old bisected the posts, his side would have secured safe passage into the play-offs and a shot at Premiership glory but no fingers are being pointed at the unfortunate Lang, who came cruelly close to pushing Quins over the line.

“James was confident of putting it over – as we know, he’s got a metronomic boot – and you’ve got to back the players in these instances,” said boss Gustard.

“He felt it was going well over and then fell a metre or two short.

“I hope we look after James because, obviously, he’s hurting. it’s just one kick but sometimes, that can define the season.

“He’s a great lad, he’s a great player, he’s done a lot of good things for us this season.

“In the summer, we’ll regroup, we’ll work harder, we’ll have a good pre-season and Harlequins will be better for it next season.”

Quins came so close to leapfrogging Northampton Saints, who were beaten by table-toppers Exeter Chiefs, into fourth.

They had trailed Wasps 24-8 at the Ricoh Arena, with a brace of tries from Joe Simpson and a Josh Bassett score putting the home side in control.

Joe Marchant had earlier gone over for Quins and they roared back, Danny Care’s try lighting the fuse before a converted Elia Elia score made it 27-25.

With time running out, Lang chanced his arm – or rather, his boot – from range but Lady Luck wasn’t on Quins’ side as the kick that could have won the day dropped achingly short of the target.