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MATCH REPORT Quins hold on despite Saints' resurgence

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

There may have been little riding on the actual result, save deciding who would be visiting Saracens and Leicester in the Aviva Premiership semi-finals, but both teams were at full strength and looking for a good performance and creating momentum ahead of the play-offs.


So when Harlequins settled the quicker to score 10 unanswered points in the opening quarter, and then 12 more in the first 10 minutes of the second half, things looked ominous for the travellers.


Nevertheless they will travel to Allianz Park next week in good heart, having shown the character to twice come back into the contest and in the knowledge that, although Harlequins played some good stuff, the final result could well have been reversed had Saints been a little more accurate.


Both of their opening attacks came to an end when they failed to stop the hosts pinching the ball at the breakdown, while on several other occasions the visitors were also guilty of forcing play that little bit too much and thereby putting themselves under pressure.


One such instance saw Harlequins recover the ball on Saints' 22, eventually winning a penalty for Nick Evans the open the scoring. And when Ben Foden failed to deal with a Danny Care chip 10 minutes later it handed a try on a plate to Tom Williams.


However the hosts were also riding their own luck. Care found himself in the right place at the right time to intercept a fizzing Stephen Myler pass as the fly half sought to exploit an overlap on the right wing, while the scrum which set up the try came from a Foden chip which had bounced agonizingly over the dead ball line.


But when Saints started to keep hold of the ball they put some really dangerous attacks together.


Having conceded the try they needed to hit back, and five minutes later it looked like they had done so. An offside from James Johnston at a home lineout on halfway allowed Myler to push play into Quins' 22, and with a superb set-play featuring soft hands from forwards and backs Ken Pisi dived over unopposed.


But referee Tim Wigglesworth paused, calling TMO David Grashoff into action to rule on a suspected block in the build-up play. Replays showed that this is what had happened, and instead of raising his arm for a try Mr Wigglesworth instead awarded Harlequins a penalty.


Still, the travelling fans in that corner had something to cheer in the next attack. Again Saints came quickly off the top of a lineout, and when play came back left Foden sent a delicate chip into space for Jamie Elliott to continue his run of tries.


The opposing wingers had scored a cracking try each, but defences had been in good form, too, with Elliott doing superbly to stop Mike Brown recovering his own kick for what would have been a certain try.


After that cagy opening the game had really come to life, on and off the pitch. Both teams were looking threatening with ball in hand, while the fans were creating a cracking atmosphere in the stands.


Saints had worked really hard in the second quarter to get themselves back into the contest. So it was frustrating not just to see Rob Buchanan dive over 90 seconds after the restart, but also that the try came from an error of judgement from Elliott, who, instead of allowing Evans's kick off to go straight into touch, caught the ball to give the hosts the lineout from which they scored.


Ten minutes later there were another five points on the scoreboard courtesy of Tom Casson's try in the right corner. This time, although Saints created the position for Harlequins by conceding a penalty on their 22, the chance was created by Care's quick thinking and speed to take him through the gap.


Again Saints found themselves in a position where they needed a try quickly to stay in the contest. They were helped no end by home ill discipline, but when you find yourself in a good position you then also have to finish it off, which the pack duly did with a driving maul.


Dylan Hartley came up with the ball, and with Myler's conversion Saints were back to a 10-point deficit.


Seven minutes later this was down to three, and in some style, too. Foden, Elliott and Pisi had all been making yards from the back three, but it was the big men who created and finished Saints' third try. Hartley came down the right, Luther Burrell barrelled his way to within sight of the whitewash, and when the ball went left Christian Day had a try to mark his hundredth first team appearance.


There were still 19 minutes to play, but if there was any tension among the players on the field it was not showing, as the flood of replacements maintained the intensity and pace.


Harlequins had the best chances to seal the contest, Elliott bringing the ever-impressive Ugo Monye down close to the line and Casson butchering a huge overlap. But Saints were looking to grab the win, too, coming close to a couple of breakouts from deep.


Despite their efforts, neither attack could break the obdurate defence opposite them, and Harlequins confirmed their third place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.


TIMELINE

11mins QUINS Pen Evans 3-0

21mins QUINS Try Williams Con Evans 10-0

28mins SAINTS Try Elliott 10-5

34mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

HALF-TIME HARLQUINS 10 SAINTS 5

41mins QUINS Try Buchanan Con Evans 17-5

44mins QUINS Miss pen Evans

49mins QUINS Try Casson 22-5

54mins SAINTS Try Hartley Con Myler 22-12

61mins SAINTS Try Day Con Myler 22-19

64mins QUINS Miss pen Botica

FULL-TIME HARLEQUINS 22 SAINTS 19