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Match Report: Quins 35 – 29 Saints

Northampton Saints came agonisingly close to a remarkable come-from-behind win at Twickenham Stoop, but ultimately had to settle for rescuing two bonus points in a narrow 35-29 defeat.

The men in Black, Green and Gold trailed 21-10 at the interval as the hosts notched up three quick tries before captain Lewis Ludlam answered with a score of his own.

But a topsy turvy second half saw Quins pull further clear, then Saints came back with Tommy Freeman, George Furbank and Tom James all getting on the scoresheet to set up a grandstand finish – but as Northampton pushed for a match-winning score with the clock in the red, the hosts held out to edge a rollercoaster contest in south London.

FIRST HALF

The first 40 minutes was, unfortunately for the visitors, one of immense frustration as Saints created several golden opportunities to score but could only convert one of them.

Quins opened the scoring in the fourth minute as they built the phases early on, and were rewarded with a penalty which they kicked to the corner, with Jack Musk rumbling over at the back of the maul.

Things then got worse shortly after for Saints as the ball was knocked out of Fraser Dingwall’s hands on halfway by Lennox Anyanwu, and as the ball bounced favourably for the hosts, Joe Marchant offloaded back to the centre who raced into the corner.

Marcus Smith was successful with both conversions to take the scoreline to 14-0, but Saints came so close to scoring on 12 minutes when Alex Mitchell was tackled by Marchant just as he tried to send Tom Collins in to score.

Northampton turned down shots at goal as they won penalties in the 15th and 18th minutes, but while the lineout was operating well, twice the ball was lost forward in tackles as the men in Black, Green and Gold looked to breach Quins’ line.

With 21 minutes played, Saints were awarded another penalty as Jack Kenningham did not roll away, and this time they opted for points on the board with fly-half Dan Biggar kicking three from the tee.

But Quins stretched their lead four minutes later as they manufactured an overlap on the left wing for Luke Northmore to burst over the line, with Smith’s conversion accurate again.

At 21-3 down, there were still plenty of opportunities for Northampton to score as they enjoyed a lot of possession in the hosts’ half, but they could not make the chances stick until a 50-22 from Collins on 34 minutes gave them a good platform.

Saints again were efficient with the lineout, and after a couple of phases and a big carry from Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, skipper Lewis Ludlam scrambled over the whitewas under the posts.

Biggar made no mistake with the conversion, and despite yet another searing break from Saints towards the end of the half, the score stayed at 21-10 until the break.

SECOND HALF

An uphill task got even harder for Saints early in the second half as Salakaia-Loto saw yellow for a high shot in defence, but Northampton initially weathered the storm well with 14 men – with Biggar holding up Danny Care over the line.

Quins did force another maul try over for Musk on 48 minutes, with Smith again converting to make it 28-10, but as Salakaia-Loto returned from his sin-bin period, Ludlam won a crucial penalty deep in the hosts’ half which led to a try for Tommy Freeman as Saints then spun the ball wide into space.

Mitchell then created a superb chance, perfectly delaying his pass to release Alex Coles through a gap, but the lock could not make an offload to Iyogun stick just short of the line.

Ludlam then saw a try chalked off by the TMO for a double movement – and less than a minute later, Quins were up the other end and scoring in the corner after a quickly-taken penalty from Care sent Cadan Murley down the left wing, with the wing finishing spectacularly in the corner.

At 35-15, Saints seemed dead and buried but replacement scrum-half Tom James sent Furbank through a gap, and the fullback did very well to finish off the try under pressure from Murley.

And Northampton brought it back within a score with their fourth try as this time James himself darted over – Biggar’s conversion made it a six-point game and set up a thrilling finish, but as Saints built over 20 phases with the clock in the red and advanced all the way into the 22, Quins just held out with a turnover to seal the win.

Another busy week now lies ahead for Saints, with a home Premiership Rugby Cup match on the horizon against Saracens on Wednesday evening, before next Sunday’s Gallagher Premiership clash at Wasps.

LINE-UPS

QUINS: Green, Marchant, Northmore, Anyanwu, Murley, Smith, Care; Marler, Musk, Louw, Lamb, Herbst, Kenningham, Evans, White
Replacements: Riley, Garcia Botta, Kerrod, Hammond, Jurevicius, Gjaltema, Allan, David

SAINTS: Furbank, Freeman, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Collins, Biggar, Mitchell; Iyogun, Matavesi, Petch, Salakaia-Loto, Coles, Scott-Young, Ludlam, Augustus
Replacements: Haywood, Heffernan, Hill, Moon, Graham, James, Proctor, Sleightholme

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