Dylan Hartley’s second-half try ultimately proved the difference as Northampton Saints picked up their first win of the Gallagher Premiership season on Friday evening.
Chris Boyd’s men led Harlequins 9-3 at the break as fly-half Dan Biggar slotted three penalties, before extending their lead in the second half through replacement hooker Hartley.
They were made to fight hard for the win though as tries from Danny Care and James Lang brought Quins back within a score, but brilliant defence under their own posts and Jamie Gibson’s last-gasp turnover secured a 25-18 triumph for the hosts.
Saints dominated a frantic opening ten minutes as only two try-saving tackles from Marcus Smith denied the hosts the first score.
First Tom Collins hared through, making a blistering 50-metre break up the left wing, and then Piers Francis after Saints’ backline put the ball through their hands – but both were denied five metres out by the young fly-half Smith.
And it was the Quins No.10 who notched the first points of the evening against the run of play from in front of the posts when Alex Waller went off his feet, but immediately winning a penalty from the kick off, Saints had the opportunity to respond.
After kicking to the corner however, the chance went begging as the ball was lost at the lineout.
Biggar levelled the scores shortly after with a routine penalty, before striking two more straight through the uprights before the break and hitting another against the post – with Quins’ discipline tested under immense Saints pressure.
Ahsee Tuala made a brilliant break just before the interval, bursting through several tackles and charging 50 metres forwards up the pitch, but as the men in Black, Green and Gold looked to work the ball wide it was knocked on and possession went begging.
Saints looked to have scored a try early in the second half as Harry Mallinder – on for the injured Ken Pisi – collected his own kick and offloaded brilliantly out the back to Cobus Reinach who wriggled over, but the TMO adjudged he was held up.
Biggar then extended the lead from the tee as Elia Elia was pinged for not releasing, but on Quins’ first visit to the 22 they built the phases and Danny Care was able to snipe over to score despite good defence from Saints to slow down the visitors’ ball.
Smith's conversion brought his side within two points at 12-10 with 26 minutes remaining, but after nailing the restart and winning a penalty deep in Quins territory, Hartley was the man at the back of the rolling maul to score just five minutes after replacing James Fish.
Biggar and Smith traded penalties once more to keep Saints two scores clear, but Lang made it a nervous finish for the Franklin’s Gardens faithful as he burst through Saints' midfield and accelerated into the corner.
The fly-half sliced his conversion wide however, and an ice-cool Mallinder penalty handed Saints a seven-point lead which they resolutely defended in the face of huge pressure as the clock ticked into the red.
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