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Saints 40 – 22 Harlequins: Boyd’s side stay top after masterclass at the Gardens

Northampton Saints maintained their spot atop the Gallagher Premiership standings with a superb bonus-point win over Harlequins under the Friday Night Lights at Franklin’s Gardens.

The hosts were irresistible in the opening 40, with Taqele Naiyaravoro’s double and scores for Teimana Harrison and Mikey Haywood seeing them secure a bonus point – replacement Cadan Murley grabbing Quins’ only score just before the break.

But despite withstanding some early pressure early in the second half from their visitors, the boot of James Grayson kept Saints well out in front before Harrison slid in for his second of the evening to round off the hosts’ scoring.

Marcus Smith was able to knock over an easy penalty in the third minute from right in front of the posts after Saints strayed offside following Aaron Morris’ initial break.

But from there on it was all Northampton, and Boyd’s side took the lead after Hutchinson fed Naiyaravoro with a superb flat pass and the human wrecking-ball did the rest with an incredible finish in the corner – running through three defenders from the 22 before sliding in.

In the tenth minute Harrison increased the lead with a bizarre try, touching down the ball after Collins had taken it over the line but had been held up by Gabriel Ibitoye, Tom Wood making the key yards in the build-up.

Grayson’s conversion attempt was struck clean and true to take the scoreline to 12-3, before the fly-half added another three points to his tally with a penalty shortly after.

And on 27 minutes Saints were out of sight as Naiyaravoro had his second; intercepting a loose pass and running in from 40 metres out, smashing Travis Ismaiel out of his way en route to the tryline.

Grayson again was on the money from out wide with the conversion, and when Elia Elia was pinged four minutes from the break for a high tackle just outside the 22, Saints opted to kick for the corner to try and secure the bonus point before half-time.

Northampton’s pack duly delivered, as the rolling maul rumbled over and there was Haywood at the back to touch down the hosts’ fourth of the night.

However, Murley did answer for Quins after Symons had denied Ismaiel with a try-saving tackle, with the visitors playing into the red to send the replacement over the whitewash.

Saints withstood some early second-half pressure, but after 17 minutes of resolute defence they were finally breached with Robshaw taking a quick tap-and-go penalty to go under the posts.

That brought the scoreline back to 27-15 but after a moment of magic from George Furbank down the left wing, Grayson banged over a drop goal from in front of the posts to take the wind out of the visitors’ sails and extend the deficit to two converted scores.

Saints then earned a penalty straight from the restart and Grayson did the honours from all of 40 metres, before Rory Hutchinson and replacement Fraser Dingwall combined in the midfield to allow Harrison to slide over in the corner.

Murley did grab a late consolation score for Quins, following a neat grubber through from Joe Marchant, but they could not notch a bonus-point try of their own before the end of the game.

For Saints that’s three wins from three to start their Gallagher Premiership campaign, with a trip down to the West Country and Bath awaiting next weekend.

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