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Author Topic: Match Report: Northampton vs Harlequins  (Read 284 times)

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Match Report: Northampton vs Harlequins
« on: Tuesday 11-Sep-2018, 21:27 »
Northampton Saints v Harlequins
by Bedfordshire Boy

[ Guests cannot view attachments ] After a less than earth shattering pre-season campaign, we had our first look at a Paul Gustard Quins side in what turned out to be an eventual very comfortable win against Sale Sharks at The Stoop last week. This week however is likely to be a very different kind of test with Saints undoubtedly being very keen put last weeks defeat behind them and put on a show for their supporters in their first home game of the new season.

Franklins Gardens has not been a happy hunting ground for Quins in recent times with our last victory there being about six years ago, nevertheless I thought that we might come away with a narrow victory. Disappointing to see that we seem to have added to the list of injured players with Mike Brown and Luke Wallace unavailable for selection and then the late withdrawal of an in form Joe Marler. Despite that, not a bad looking side with a strong backline although a number of first choice players missing from the forwards.

Marcus Smith got the game under way on a fine evening under the lights and an almost perfect pitch and it was a wayward Quins kick shortly after that almost led to the first score of the game. Saints won the ball and set winger Tom Collins on his way inside his own twenty two and after some clever shielding from his team mates he set off down the left wing for what seemed like an almost certain try. But up popped Marcus Smith to chase him down and tackle him into touch five metres short of the Quins try line only for the Smith repeat the act shortly afterwards, this time denying Piers Francis. Definite worrying signs within the first couple of minutes of the match but it was Quins who were first to score after Alex Waller was penalised for going off his feet allowing Marcus Smith to convert from in front of the Saints posts after seven minutes.

Saints continued to pretty much dominate proceedings and were twice awarded penalties in kickable positions but choosing to kick to the corner on both occasions. Both line outs were well defended by Quins leaving Saints unrewarded for their efforts although they did finally get onto the scoreboard after 18 minutes when Biggar chose to take the three points on offer after Quins were penalised for being offside at the ruck. Although Quins were comfortable in the set piece Saints continued to press and it took a couple of try saving tackles from Joe Marchant on first Pisi and then Burrell to keep the scores level. Pisi then left the field holding his arm to be replaced by Harry Mallinder with 22 minutes on the clock.

Quins continued to find themselves at the wrong side of referee Tom Foley and Saints were unlucky not to add to their score when a Biggar conversion attempt hit the posts although he did add to his personal tally when another conversion attempt was successful on 34 minutes. With the Saints beginning to get the upper hand in the scrum and Mark Lambert being the man picked out by the referee, Saints were awarded yet another penalty allowing Biggar to score once again from the tee right on 40 minutes. Half time score Saints 9 Quins 3. Pretty much an uphill battle for Quins throughout the half but defended well, with last seasons mindset, we would have conceded at least a couple of trys.

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Dan Biggar Gets The Second Half Underway

Saints were straight onto the attack at the start of the second half and the TMO was called into action within the first three minutes after Mallinder collected his own kick before offloading to Cobus Reinach who appeared to get the ball over the line. In the days before saturated TV camera coverage a try would almost certainly have been given, but touchdown could not be seen, so the Saints players had to traipse back from their position on the halfway line for a five metre scrum. A definite try said one Saints supporter behind me to my right, no way can you give a try said the Saints supporter behind me to my left. Back to the action and Quins continued to find themselves under pressure and held out until the forty sixth minute when Biggar increased the Saints lead to nine points with a straightforward penalty.

The cheers from the home crowd then got louder still as local hero Dylan Hartley enters the fray replacing James Fish. Despite all of the pressure, Quins stuck to their task and finally spend some time in the Saints twenty two eventually being rewarded when Danny Care manages to get the ball to ground over the Saints line. Marcus Smith adds the two extra points, so after 52 minutes Quins are within two points of Saints, Saints 12 Quins 10. Within five minutes however Saints increased their lead, when following a couple of penalty kicks to the corner, Hartley was adjudged to have scored when he was driven over the Quins line. I use the word adjudged because from where I was sat, no more than 20 metres away, he definitely lost control of the ball before eventually touching it down. Interesting that Biggar attempted a quick drop goal conversion attempt (duly missed) before the referee allowed the kick to be retaken, so clearly some doubt in his mind. But hey ho, you win some and you lose some and it could be argued that the earlier disallowed try might well have been a valid score.

With 57 minutes on the clock Quins find themselves nine points adrift of the Saints total as Stan South replaces Matt Symons in the Quins second row. Saints replaced flanker James Haskell with Jamie Gibson after 61 minutes, have to say it felt quite surreal listening to a Franklins Garden crowd applauding Haskell. It wasn`t long before Saints delivered what could have been the killer blow when they increased their lead by a further three points when Biggar punished Quins yet again with his sixth successful conversion of the evening, 62 minutes gone Saints 22 Quins 10. Time for reinforcements for Quins as Care. Tapaui and White are replaced by Mulchrone, Lasike and Bothma respectively. Quins still keep plugging away and reduce the deficit by three points when Marcus Smith scores a well taken penalty 35 metres out with fifteen minutes left to play. Saints bring on Symonds for Burrell and Van Wyk for Waller followed by James Lang replacing Marcus Smith with ten minutes of the game remaining.

The physicality of Lasike and Bothma seemed to make a difference, and within a couple of minutes of his introduction, James Lang slips through the Saints defence and runs 30 metres to score on the right. Lang is unable to add the extra points to his try so Quins close the gap to 4 points with eight minutes to play. The home crowd now getting a bit nervous as cries of Come On You Quins start to increase in volume but they find their voice again when Lasike is penalised for offside and Mallinder steps up to increase the gap to seven points with seventy six minutes gone. The increased intensity from Quins pays dividends when they are awarded a penalty with two minutes to go which is kicked to the corner. The last two minutes of the game is all one way with Quins camped near to the Saints line but the home side hang on and the ball is eventually turned over with the clock well into the red. Final score Saints 25 Quins 18.

All things considered not a bad team performance from Quins marred somewhat by a number of individual errors and “an against” penalty account in convertible positions that was far too high. Full marks to the defence yet again as well as the willingness for the squad to never give up and play for each other. To my mind, unlucky not too have forced the draw although not a view shared by all. A very enjoyable game to watch with lots of endeavour but with too many errors from both sides. Playing the way we were last season we would have lost by a clear twenty points so the improvement is clear to see but still a long way to go. Bring on Bath!

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Nico Wilson

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Re: Match Report: Northampton vs Harlequins
« Reply #1 on: Tuesday 11-Sep-2018, 21:29 »
Great write up. Thank you


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Re: Match Report: Northampton vs Harlequins
« Reply #2 on: Wednesday 12-Sep-2018, 07:40 »
Very balanced and detailed, thank you.
I bet Franklin's Gardens was great under the lights!


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Re: Match Report: Northampton vs Harlequins
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 12-Sep-2018, 12:36 »
Thanks BB


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Re: Match Report: Northampton vs Harlequins
« Reply #4 on: Thursday 13-Sep-2018, 10:08 »
Thanks BB.



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