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Saints 36 Harlequins 10: Saints secure Anglo-Welsh semi-final berth

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Northampton Saints secured their spot in the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi finals with a confident win over Harlequins.

The home side were quick grab the bonus point with four tries in the first half proving fatal to Quins, who before Friday's clash hadn’t dropped a single point in the competition.

Six tries ensured a thrilling night at the Gardens, with Ken Pisi crossing twice as well as George North, Tom Stephenson, and Ahsee Tuala.

Saints made an instant impact and came close to scoring within the first minute, only to be held up over the tryline, but the scrum was awarded from just metres out.

A second score was denied just moments later, as referee Nic Berry ruled the ball to be short of the line; the momentum was well and truly with Saints.

Third time was the charm as there was no stopping the returning George North on the left wing who scored the first try of the night from a superb offload, his thirty-sixth try for the club.

Jamie Gibson made a fine interception and left the defence for dust, the ball was then worked out wide for Tom Stephenson to score a second for Northampton in what was a perfect start for Saints.

Saints were ruthless with their attack and seemed to like hanging around in the Quins 22, with numerous phases wearing the London side down with every hit.

It was all going Northampton’s way, Quins had barely come close to leaving their own half, as North’s 30 metre dash kept the game in Harlequins territory and kept the search for their next score going strong.

Try number three came from the hands of Ahsee Tuala, who tiptoed to the line from the scrum with ease to the right of the posts for the points on his seventeenth appearance of the season.

Ken Pisi increased the lead with a blitzing run down the right flank to secure the bonus point with their fourth try of the game in a sublime first half for the home side, but there was no sign of them letting up any time soon.

The Saints defence was rock solid in the final minutes of the first half, as Quins came within inches of touching the base of the post, but fell just short and were pushed back out of Northampton’s 22.

Quins managed to break through with a try from Mark Lambert, barging his way through to the line, but nevertheless the score was 26-5 and they had a mountain to climb to dethrone the home side in the second half.

Api Ratuniuyarawa soared through the Quins backline to open the second half, but the home side couldn’t reach the line and had to settle with a penalty from the boot of Piers Francis, who last played in the game against Quins in December.

Quins managed to compose their attack and threaten the Saints 22 in what had been a much quieter second half, but the Northampton defence remained resolute, and held their own to maintain a 24-point advantage.

New signing Heinrich Brüssow came on to make his debut with just under 20 minutes left on the clock, but the attention was all on Gibson who made a stellar run down the right touchline, only to come inches short of the line for what would have been his side’s fifth try.

Again it was Pisi who managed to pierce the Quins defence, as he scored his second try of the night next to the sticks; Saints were running away with the game now.

Joe Marchant scored the second try for Harlequins in the final five minutes, but his efforts were in vain, as the deficit was just too great against his side.

One final charge from North didn’t quite make it six tries, but Berry’s whistle blew and the Gardens rejoiced; Saints are going to the semi-finals.

SAINTS Tuala; Pisi, Tuitavake, Stephenson, North; Francis, Reinach; van Wyk, Haywood, Brookes, Ratuniyarawa, Day (capt), Ribbans, Gibson, Harrison
Replacements: Marshall, Ma’afu, Ford-Robinson, Eadie, Brüssow, Groom, Myler, Foden

QUINS Morris; Chisholm, Marchant, Cheeseman, Alofa; Lang, Lewis; Lambert, Gray, McNulty, South, Horwill, White, Wallace, Chisholm (capt)
Replacements: Piper, Holenstein, Ibuanokpe, Twomey, Luamanu, Kitto, Prior, Murley

6’ SAINTS Try North, Conversion Francis 7-0
12’ SAINTS Try Stephenson, Conversion 14-0
28’ SAINTS Try Tuala, Conversion Francis 21-0
31’ SAINTS Try Pisi 26-0
40’ QUINS Try Lambert 26-5
HALF-TIME Saints 26-5 Quins
46’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 29-5
68’ SAINTS Try Pisi Conversion Myler 36-5
77’ QUINS Try Marchant 36-10
FULL TIME Saints 36-10 Quins

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