Harlequins head coach Paul Gustard believes his side were more competitive than the scoreline suggests after their 33-3 defeat to Exeter Chiefs on Friday night. 

It was a tough way to start the new Gallagher Premiership season for Quins, who went up against last season’s European and domestic double winners at Twickenham Stoop.

Sam Simmond’s hat-trick helped the Chiefs to opening day victory, as the visitors scored three tries in the last ten minutes to secure the bonus-point late on.

And Gustard believes his side more than held their own against Rob Baxter’s all-conquering side, with plenty of positives to take despite the heavy loss. 

“I think at half time I was pretty pleased with the team, it was 7-3 against a team that have just won a European title and a Premiership title, and are bang in form,” the Quins head coach said. 

“To be there and to be competitive, and I think we stretched them a bit in the first half in the middle of the field, we had two or three line breaks but then we lost the ball, and whenever they got down the other end, they put us under pressure.

“Up until 65 minutes I thought it was a tight game, although they dominated territory and dominated possession, we were still fighting and sticking in there, but the last 10 minutes with the maul tries punished us hard.”

Quins couldn’t have come up against tougher opposition to start the new domestic season, but more than matched their opponents in the opening 20 minutes of the match, as they led 3-0 through Marcus Smith’s penalty 13 minutes in.

But once Simmonds got his first score midway through the first half, the Chiefs never relinquished the lead, as they continued to look every bit as dominant as last season. 

Dave Ewers added another just after the halftime interval, before Luke Northmore had a try disallowed for Quins, as Alex Dombrandt was adjudged to have impeded an Exeter defender earlier in the play. 

With only nine points in it heading into the closing stages, the hosts were still in contention, but a dominant Chiefs maul paid dividends in the final 10 minutes, as Simmonds added a couple of scores to his tally, before Stuart Townsend rounded of the scoring. 

And Gustard believes the final score wasn’t an accurate reflection of the overall match on Friday, and was left ruing his side’s missed opportunities and ill-discipline. 

"I thought we were valiant and had that Luke Northmore try been allowed, it may well have been a different game going into the last 10 minutes,” he said.

"But we spoke all week about being disciplined in the middle of the park and ultimately, we gave away far too many penalties in that area and eventually lost ground and momentum.

"In the end, it was almost death by a thousand cuts the way we kept presenting them with opportunities to kick to the corner and they made us pay.

"It's hugely disappointing as we've come a long way as a squad off the field in recent weeks. But sadly we didn't come up with the answers tonight against a class team and it shows we've still got a long way to go to match that."