While there would be four tries to come in the contest the first quarter was scoreless, something which was not a surprise for the thousands in attendance at Franklin’s Gardens and those watching at home as the teams cancelled each other out.
Harlequins had the best of the action, running regular plays into the home 22. But at the crucial moment their handling or discipline would let them down, and with Saints’ defence also remaining patient in the face of the visitors’ off-loading game George Robson’s men had half-chances at best.
Still Saints, for all their intent on keeping their own tempo high, were having similar issues at the other end, and in the opening 20 minutes the closest they came was an early thrust that took them to within 10 metres of Quins’ line.
But after Nick Evans broke the deadlock after 26 minutes it took just one more attack for the hosts to get onto the scoreboard themselves.
A kickable penalty was sent to the corner, and while Robson came close to spoiling the throw - as Harlequins had done on a number of occasions already - the ball was gathered safely by Calum Clark, and when the drive gathered momentum the try was a formality.
Same Manoa came up with the ball, and with Stephen Myler landing the touchline conversion off the post the hosts had a lead from only their second trip to the visitors’ 22.
Evans replied five minutes later, and while Saints did send another kickable penalty to the corner the next time they got their hands on the ball this time the visitors managed to break up the play, which they did on the far side in the next attack, too, and the half ended with just the one point between the teams.
Given the balance of play in the first half the score was just about fair, in terms of Saints’ clinical finishing and the visitors’ wastefulness in the red zone.
Harlequins’ best chances had come in the opening minutes of the first half, and they had a fantastic chance just five minutes after the resumption of play. Saints could not get their hands on the ball, but they were certainly there in numbers to tackle Marland Yarde - who had been far and away the visitors’ most dangerous player in the first 40 - into touch by the corner flag.
The forwards got almost as close on the other side of the field with some good go-forward ball a couple of minutes later, only to concede a penalty,
This profligacy proved crucial, as when Saints got up to the other end for the first time they struck for the second time.
Kahn Fotuali’i, on as a replacement at scrum-half, set up the position with a superb turnover at a tackle, with Tom Stephenson showing lovely feet and awareness in putting Myler away with a delayed pass.
Quins infringed at a ruck, Myler kicked to the corner, and after the forwards sucked in the defence the ball was spun wide for James Wilson to dummy his way over.
Saints had also brought on the likes of Alex Corbisiero and Tom Wood, and the power and momentum began to swing their team’s way. But even though Kyle Sinckler saw yellow for a dangerous tackle on Manoa the hosts could not turn subsequent promising positions into points.
Coming into the contest Quins’ defence was the meanest in the Aviva Premiership, conceding fewer tries than any other team, and the determination shown throughout the season was repeated here, stripping Wood of the ball and stopping a dangerous-looking maul in its tracks.
Having held out Quins put together a stunning attack of their own, Yarde making a blistering break through midfield. But in doing so he also overran his support, and when Saints turned the ball over themselves they quickly worked their way up the field and back over the line.
George Pisi made the initial break, and when Quins infringed there was no hesitation to send the ball to the corner. Myler hit the five-metre line perfectly and the pack did the rest, Wood at the back of the maul to mark his 100th appearance with a try.
Saints had been clinical, with three tries from their first three visits to the five-metre line. But the 100 percent record went 10 minutes from time as Quins’ solidity returned, turning the ball over for a well-earned clearance.
That was as close as Saints would come to what would have been a bonus point try. There was a score to come, but it fell to Yarde, who broke away to score a deserved try for his individual performance and earn his team a point for their efforts.
SAINTS Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Stephenson, Elliott; Myler, Dickson (capt); A Waller, Haywood, Denman, Lawes, C Day, Manoa, Clark, Dickinson
Reps - Williams, Corbisiero, Mercey, Wood, Dowson, Fotuali’i, Olver, Tuala
HARLEQUINS Monye; Yarde, Hopper, Sloan, Walker; Evans, Dickson; Lambert, Ward, Sinckler, Matthews, Robson (capt), Clifford, Wallace, Talei
Reps - Buchanan, Marfo, Shields, Twomey, Trayfoot, Tibaldi, Botica, Lindsay-Hague
REFEREE Tim Wigglesworth
26mins QUINS Pen Evans 0-3
29mins SAINTS Try Manoa Con Myler 7-3
34mins QUINS Pen Evans 7-6
HALF-TIME SAINTS 7 QUINS 6
53mins SAINTS Try Wilson 12-6
56mins QUINS Yellow card Sinckler
66mins SAINTS Try Wood 17-6
80mins QUINS Try Yarde Con Botica 17-13
FULL-TIME SAINTS 17 QUINS 13