Saturday, 26th March 2016 @ 18:00
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Harlequins secured a losing bonus point in a well-balanced game at Franklin’s Gardens in Round 18 of the Aviva Premiership.
The Club went into the half-time break with a slender 12-13 advantage through the boot of Ben Botica and a stunning individual try from Tim Visser. The second half saw another thrilling individual score from Grand Slam returnee Jack Clifford.
This made the match Quins’ for the taking but Ben Foden continued his try scoring ways since the sides last met going over to draw the sides level with Stephen Myler’s conversion putting the home side in front 22-20 with a quarter of the match to go.
Despite Quins putting pressure on Saints deep in their 22 in the last five minutes, the visitors couldn’t secure a vital try having to settle for a penalty and a losing bonus point.
Quins started the match brightly with Botica putting his side 3-0 up on eight minutes after James Craig came in at the side. This lead did not last long, and despite a missed penalty attempt from Myler, the home side soon got themselves on the board with a try from Alex Waller. The prop capitalised on Saints’ pressure after a clearing kick from Botica was caught by the wind and stayed in touch.
Botica then put Quins back in the lead with a second penalty making the score 5-6 after Myler missed the previous conversion.
The Saints then took full advantage of Quins’ indiscipline. The visitors were penalised for a collapsed driving maul and Myler kicked to the corner. Play was spread wide and after the ball was recycled, Courtney Lawes dotted down from close range and Myler’s conversion made the score 12-6 on 25 minutes.
As half-time began to loom Tim Visser produced a spark which propelled the team back into life. The Scottish international was passed the ball on the 22 metre line and using his light footwork and pace, the winger danced around Kieran Brookes and Lawes to score to the left of the posts. Botica added the conversion and Quins were in the lead 12-13 going into the break.
After half-time Quins came out rearing to go. On 41 minutes from 35 metres out, Clifford used his deceptive pace and power to cross over, handing off Foden in the process. Botica added the touchline conversion and suddenly the Franklin’s Gardens crowd had less to cheer about with the score at 12-20.
However, this didn’t last long. Myler got Northampton back to within one score on 46 minutes with a penalty.
The gap was then to be closed and overtaken when Quins were penalised by referee Tim Wigglesworth for holding on. Myler gave his team territorial advantage and from the resulting play Foden went over in the corner with Myler’s conversion putting his team two points ahead at 22-20.
With 20 minutes to play, Quins showed staunch defence as Saints kept knocking on the door. The visitors secured a vital turnover and the travelling Quins supporters breathed a sigh of relief.
The tension soon rose again as Botica looked to kick over a long distance kick in the middle of the pitch. The fly-half had the accuracy but not the distance as his kick bounced off the bar. Botica was then awarded a second bite at the cherry but he could not capitalise on Saints indiscipline with his second penalty attempt drifting wide.
With the last ten minutes upon us, both teams looked to see the game out and Saints did so in style with replacement Harry Mallinder scoring in the 74th minute and Myler’s conversion making a comeback a daunting prospect for the Quins team at 29-20.
Harlequins never gave up their attack and fighting spirit and with mounting pressure on Northampton’s line, the ball was taken through the phases but then knocked on in contact with the visitors having to settle for a penalty.
Botica kicked the ball through the posts and Quins were set for a grand finale with the score at 29-23 on 78 minutes. However, it was not to be and despite quick hands and the desire to run the ball from their own half from Quins, Saints turned the ball over and kicked it into the stands.
The conclusion is a disappointing result after an encouraging performance from the quartered men. The team will now look to regroup with Newcastle Falcons visiting The Stoop on Saturday 2nd April as the Aviva Premiership rolls on to its conclusion.
If you would like to share in some Aviva Premiership action as the league reaches its conclusion, tickets are still available for Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons on Saturday 2nd April, kick-off 15:00 and can be booked by clicking here.