Fifth-placed Northampton Saints travel to Twickenham Stoop this weekend to face third-placed Harlequins, and we’ve crunched the numbers ahead of what is set to be an exciting Gallagher Premiership encounter...
The breakdown is always a key area of any game, and the statistics suggest two sides this Sunday with differing approaches.
Saints concede the fewest turnovers on average (10.5), while teams playing against them also give up the fewest (11.6).
Sunday’s opponents in 2020/21, however, concede the most per 80 minutes – a whopping 14.9 – and in Will Evans, Quins have the Gallagher Premiership’s top fetcher, with the openside flanker winning 17 turnovers so far this season.
Will there be a middle ground, or will one of the sides’ breakdown tendencies dictate the game?
During last weekend’s defeat to Bath, it was the visitors’ kicking game – from the tee and hand – that came to the fore in a second-half comeback, and Saints will come up against another side that relies heavily on the boot in Round 12.
In Marcus Smith, Quins boast one of the league’s most deadly marksmen. Only the record-breaking Rhys Priestland (94.29% of 33 attempts at goal) maintains a better hit-rate so far this season than the English youngster (90.57% of 48).
The home side on Sunday also kick more from hand than anyone else in the Gallagher Prem, 30.9 times a match on average to be precise.
Saints hover at the other end of the scale though (19.6), and also allow the fewest kicks against (21.1).
Saints’ improving scrum has been one of the biggest highlights of recent weeks and despite having three games cancelled, Matt Ferguson’s pack have still managed to win the third-most penalties this season with 26 so far.
Perhaps even more impressively, no-one has won more decisions on opposition ball than the men in Black, Green and Gold; their total of seven is tied with Sale Sharks and clear of Quins’ tally of four.
Penalties, however, do not tell the full story. In terms of success rate, Harlequins lead the way at an incredible 97%, with Saints around the mean at 87%.
That would suggest a tendency for Harlequins to play away from the set-piece quickly, and could prove key in negating Saints’ more aggressive approach to scrummaging in recent weeks.