Saturday, 13th April 2019 @ 18:40
Kick off 15:00
Kick off 19:45
Kick off 20:15
Kick off 15:00
Kick off 13:00
Harlequins suffer an agonising, last-minute defeat to Northampton Saints in a match dominated by injuries for both sides.
Quins retain fourth place in the Gallagher Premiership despite the loss, with the last few rounds of the competition having it all to play for.
Quins had the opportunity to take the lead early on courtesy of a penalty given for a high tackle by lock Api Ratuniyarawa just inside the Saints half. Fly-half Marcus Smith stepped up to take the points, but his effort went wide of the posts leaving the scores unchanged.
However, on the sixth minute, Smith had another chance to score following another high tackle by Saints, this time on their own 22. The stand-off slotted the kick with ease, giving his side a 3-0 lead.
Two minutes later, Northampton were given a chance to go level following an infringement by Tighthead Prop Kyle Sinckler just inside his own 22 at the ruck. Saints Fly-Half Dan Bigger stepped up to take the points, making the scores level at 3-3.
Saints swiftly followed this up with a try on the 13-minute mark scored by winger Ahsee Tuala following an incisive break from outside centre Rory Hutchinson on halfway. Bigger added the extras, making the score 10-3 to the visitors.
On 15 minutes, the match was paused following a nasty, accidental collision between Harlequins centre Ben Tapuai and Northampton Fullback George Furbank. Though Tapuai was left unscathed, Furbank unfortunately left the field on a stretcher and was replaced by Andrew Kellaway. Quins had the advantage during the play due to Saints not rolling away at the ruck, allowing Marcus Smith to increase his team’s tally by three from a penalty on the Northampton ten metre line. The score now stood at 10-6 to Saints.
Four minutes later, another accidental head clash for Saints, this time between Courtney Lawes and Paul Hill, caused a stoppage in play. Both players left the field temporarily for head injury assessments and were replaced by Alex Coles and Ben Franks.
When play resumed on the 19th minute, Quins were pinged for not rolling away at the ruck inside their own 22, giving Biggar a chance to extend his side’s lead. With the kick converted, Saints led 13-6.
There followed a period before half-time where both sides were struggling to gain any continuity in attack. Saints had more possession and territory, but the home side’s tenacity and resilience in defence ensured that no points were scored against them.
Seconds before half-time, Harlequins winger Nathan Earle went down with an injury, meaning Francis Saili came onto the field to replace him, with Alofa Alofa shifting to the wing.
Quins started the second half fast with Sinckler making a break from inside his 22 off the restart. After being brought down near halfway, the prop offloaded to Saili who took the ball up to the Saints ten metre line.
Six minutes later, after a period of sustained pressure inside the Northampton half, Saili made another break and offloaded to Cadan Murley who made it inside the Saints 22 before being brought down by a flying tap tackle from Tuala. Quins recycled, however, and after moving the ball to the centre of the park, Jack Clifford ran in his side’s first try of the afternoon. With the extras added by Smith, the scores were level 13-13.
The match had now started to open up with both sides looking to play more expansively. After one of his trademark hitchkicks near his own tryline, fly-half Smith broke out and ran down to past halfway before being tackled, giving his side valuable territoty. Quins were in the ascendancy as the game drew near to its final quarter.
On 59-minutes, Saints’ scrum-half Cobus Reinach gave away a penalty inside his own 22 with a dangerous tackle on Alex Dombrandt. Smith opted to take the points putting Quins in the lead 16-13.
Saints looked to respond instantly, and after a knock-on from inside the Quins 22 from Smith, the visitors were keen to capitalise. Despite this, Quins’ immense defensive effort kept the visitors at bay and on the 70th minute, co-Captain Chris Robshaw secured a turnover inside his own 22 to get the ball back.
Following the clearance, Quins winger Cadan Murley went down with another serious injury for the home side. He was replaced by James Lang, causing the backline to be re-shuffled with Mike Brown shifting to the wing and Lang going to fullback.
With play resuming at the scrum, the hosts put together a mighty shove, winning a penalty in the process. Smith kicked downfield for the lineout on the Saints 10-metre. The home side then won another penalty at the maul giving Smith the chance to further extend their lead. With less than seven minutes to go, Quins led 19-13.
Then, with less than two minutes on the clock, Saints replacement Alex Mitchell broke down the right hand touchline and crossed the whitewash for a score to bring the visitors to within a point. Fellow replacement James Grayson then stepped up to add the extras, meaning Northampton led 19-20 with ten seconds to go.
Immediately after the restart, Saints put the ball into touch, an agonising end for Quins with the final result standing at 19-20 to Northampton.
Quins return to The Stoop for their final home match of the season in Round 21 against Leicester Tigers on Friday 3rd May (kick-off: 19:45).