Smith not looking over shoulder
Post-match reaction to Harlequins' 26-15 victory over London Irish.
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Brian Smith insists London Irish must take charge of their own Aviva Premiership destiny - and not rely on any upheaval at Sale Sharks to save them from relegation.
The Exiles were plunged deeper into the mire after losing 26-15 to Harlequins at Twickenham, which leaves them just one point ahead of bottom club Sale in the table.
Sale closed the gap with their victory over Worcester on Friday night but confirmed less than 24 hours later that coach John Mitchell had returned to South Africa after just a month at the club.
Smith said: "I don't know what is going on at Sale. I don't wish any ill will on anyone. How they handle their affairs is completely up to them.
"We can only control how we handle ours."
And Smith is confident the structure and fighting spirit is in place to ensure the Exiles survive.
"We have a rock solid coaching staff, we have rock solid senior players and it is up to us to make sure the younger players are rock solid," he said.
"If we stay united and we fight together we will get out of it and in a funny twisted way we will be better for the adversity.
"I have been in one of these scraps before. In my first year at Bath we were in a relegation scrap and then the following year we topped the league.
"My experience tells me not to look over your shoulder and not to worry about things you can't control.
"There are three teams in vulnerable positions. We are in the middle of that.
"It will be a roller-coaster ride for the rest of the season. The most important thing is we hold our nerve and focus on improving our performance and make sure our reaction to this is constructive.
"You are only a loser when you stop fighting.
"What's on our plate next is Gloucester and we have to go and get a result there. That is where our minds and hearts have got to be."
London Irish were in touch for 78 minutes but left Twickenham empty handed after Harlequins' dominant scrum earned a late penalty try, which denied the Exiles a losing bonus point.
Harlequins had taken the lead after a scrappy first-half with a try from scrum-half Danny Care, which was eventually confirmed by the television match official, and Nick Evans kicked 16 points.
Smith felt the London Irish scrum had been harshly dealt with. He felt referee Greg Garner was too quick to award the penalty try but he had no real complaints.
"We are bitterly disappointed with coming up short with no bonus point," Smith said.
"Up front they were very good but I didn't believe our pack was overshadowed to the extent where 15 points came either from penalty kicks or the penalty try awarded at the scrum.
"Normally the protocol for a penalty try is that it is on the third penalty. They did have us by the throat on our own line so we can't be too disappointed with that."
For Harlequins, victory confirmed they finished 2012 as they started it - top of the table and in a strong position to push for back-to-back Premiership titles.
"We are exactly where we want to be," said director of rugby Conor O'Shea.
"We got the win which is all important.
"The team is living with expectations very well but London Welsh last week, London Irish and then Connacht are three games people would say, wrongly, that we should easily win.
"This time last year we had lost two games of rugby. Now we have lost three games of rugby in 2012 - 15 out of 18.
"We know the levels we can get this team to and that's what excites me."