Former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards may be out to repeat his Stoop success at new club Newcastle Falcons, but top-flight survival at the first attempt will give him no satisfaction.
The former England number eight masterminded Quins’ return to the Premiership in 2006 after a year in the second tier, before making them a domestic and European force during a four-year spell at the club.
The Falcons, one-time champions of England in the late 1990s, returned to the top flight this season and are currently 11th in the table – 12 points clear of bottom-club Worcester Warriors.
It should mean survival is assured this term, but – as with his spell in charge at Quins – that is the very least Richards expects.
“Keeping Falcons in the Premiership is non-negotiable,” he said.
“We’re not looking at it from a relegation point of view.
“It is a given we have to stay here. It wouldn’t give me any great satisfaction to complete that first job.
“It is about how far up the tree we start going.”
Richards returned to west London on Saturday nearly five years after the infamous Bloodgate scandal that saw him receive a two-year ban from the sport.
The 50-year-old watched as Ben Botica’s two late penalties – added to first half tries from Ollie Lindsay-Hague and Sam Smith – snatched an 18-14 triumph for the hosts after Falcons winger Alex Tait’s try had put the visitors in front with 10 minutes remaining.
It was the second week in succession Quins have fought back late in the day to clinch victory following last week’s 11-10 win over Wasps.
And Quins chief Conor O’Shea, who expects to have lock George Robson available for tomorrow’s trip to Gloucester, was more than happy with the way his short-staffed squad is shaping up.
“They know the inaccuracies and the mistakes they made, but the never say die attitude of this team is incredible,” he said.
“You can list off the number of injuries the squad has and that is before you think of our missing internationals. These guys just keep coming back for more.
“Everything Ollie Lindsay-Hague did was outstanding. He has been asking for an opportunity for a while and it is great to see him taking it with both hands.
“The Six Nations period is always difficult, but this team is doing exactly what it needs to do and that is what these games are about.”
And it left Richards thinking of what might have been.
“I’m gutted with the result. It was there for the taking in some respects,” he added.
“All credit to them. They never say die. We had our noses in front, but did not quite get there.
He joked: “I got a great reception. A lot of people were saying welcome home, but I’m from Leicester.”