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Match Report: Northampton Saints 36 – 33 Harlequins

Two tries either side of half-time from Ollie Sleightholme on his first start for nine months helped Northampton Saints to a bonus-point win over Harlequins.

The men in Black, Green and Gold bounced back from last weekend’s Derby defeat in style, winning the Gallagher Premiership encounter 36-33 in front of a bumper cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens crowd under the Friday Night Lights.

Sleightholme kicked off the scoring for Saints after Caden Murley got the visitors on the board, with skipper Lewis Ludlam and Alex Mitchell also grabbing tries to hand Saints a half-time lead despite Jack Walker’s effort for Quins.

The back-and-forth scoring continued into the second half, with Alex Coles securing a bonus point before Sleightholme dashed over in the corner for his second of the evening to give Northampton some breathing room and ultimately a narrow victory.


The away side were fastest out the blocks, as winger Caden Murley broke a tackle to go over in the corner with just five minutes played, following a quick-tap penalty from Danny Care.

Marcus Smith could not add the extras, and it did not take long for Saints to reply as they won a penalty from the kick-off. After sending the kick into the corner, the ball came off the top of the lineout and ended up in the hands of Sleightholme, who used his speed and physicality to evade Quins’ defenders on his way to the try-line.

George Furbank added the extra two points to hand Northampton a slender advantage, but they were made to pay for some profligacy in the red zone, as they saw a couple of chances go begging before Quins scored again – a maul try from Jack Walker on the half-hour mark, which this time Smith improved.

Saints hit back almost instantly once again; an overthrown Harlequins lineout close to the line was gathered by Courtney Lawes, who offloaded to Tom Pearson, and the back-rower found Ludlam to crash over the whitewash.

Furbank again added the extras to re-take the lead, and the men in Black, Green and Gold were ruthless again just before the break, as they capitalised on a mistake from Quins to score.

The visitors could not control the ball in their own scrum ten metres from their line, and after it squirted out, Mitchell was fastest to react as he kicked forward and pounced to notch up the third try of the half for Saints – sending the hosts into the interval with a 21-12 advantage, after Furbank once again nailed the conversion.


Furbank’s radar remained dialled in at the start of the second 40, as he slotted three more points from the tee one minute into the half when Quins were pinged by referee Sara Cox for offside.

Once again though, Quins hit back, as despite a strong defensive set from Saints to repel several phases from the visitors on the 22, an ambitious grubber-kick from Smith bounced up into Will Joseph’s hands to make the key break, before the ball was whipped wide for George Hammond to score and cut the lead to five points.

Northampton had their bonus-point try 18 minutes from time, as Pearson got close to the line, before Furbank’s clever offload inside to Coles allowed the lock to crash over for his second try of the season.

Fly-half Furbank – who was later named man-of-the-match – again kicked the conversion to take his personal points haul to 11.

Harlequins would not lie down and Will Evans forced his way over after a sustained period of pressure on Saints’ line which saw numerous penalties conceded by the hosts, but once again Northampton’s character was up to the test.

They restored a ten-point advantage when George Hendy found space down the right from a pinpoint Furbank pass, then drew the last defender and passed to Sleightholme, who gratefully raced into the corner for his second score of the night.

There was still time for a nervous finish however as George Hammond intercepted Mitchell’s pass close to the line, and subsequently Quins’ replacement hooker Nathan Jibulu added his name to the scoresheet.

After the restart though, Saints’ defence held firm, sending the visitors backwards before forcing them into touch to end the game – next up for the men in Black, Green and Gold is a trip to in-form Saracens next weekend, in a repeat of last season’s Gallagher Premiership semi-finals.


SAINTS: 15 Hendy, 14 Sleightholme, 13 Freeman, 12 Dingwall, 11 Ramm, 10 Furbank, 9 Mitchell; 1 E Waller, 2 A Matavesi, 3 Davison, 4 Munga, 5 Coles, 6 Lawes, 7 Pearson, 8 Ludlam
Replacements: 16 Cruse, 17 A Waller, 18 Millar Mills, 19 Lockett, 20 Scott-Young, 21 James, 22 Savala, 23 Litchfield

HARLEQUINS: 15 Green, 14 Murley, 13 Joseph, 12 Esterhuizen, 11 Lynagh, 10 Smith, 9 Care; 1 Baxter, 2 Walker, 3 Lewis, 4 Herbst, 5 Hammond, 6 Lamb, 7 W Evans, 8 Dombrandt (c)
Replacements: 16 Jibulu, 17 Garcia Botta, 18 Chawatama, 19 Cunningham-South, 20 Chisholm, 21 Porter, 22 J Evans, 23 Beard

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