Despite the defeat down in Bath, NEC Harlequins travelled to Northampton for this Zurich Premiership encounter in a positive frame of mind. Nearly 7,000 spectators filled Franklin Gardens, on a clear bright evening. The game started at a frantic pace as the opposing packs battled for ascendancy. After seven minutes Northampton opened the scoring. As a rolling maul trundled towards the try line, a penalty was conceded for coming in from the side which Grayson duly converted.
The next 10 minutes saw some scintillating rugby from Quins. Rory Jenkins set up play with a good driving run, Paul Burke shipped on to Will Greenwood whose miss pass put Ben Gollings into space. Gollings darted outside his marker then chipped inside the full-back and outpaced the cover to score under the posts. Burke's simple conversion put the visitors ahead 3-7.
Northampton tried to bounce straight back but conceded a penalty for holding onto the ball. Burke took a quick tap and released Greenwood, who stood the defence up with an inside step and found Peter Richards in support, releasing him to score and complete the 80 yard move. Burke secured the extra two points and Quins led 3-14 after fifteen minutes.
Northampton then played the percentages and starved Quins of any ball. After a couple of penalties were conceded, Budge Poutney dived over from the resultant lineout. Grayson converted the try followed by a penalty after Quins were adjudged to be holding on to the ball. This took the score to 13-14 just after the half-hour mark.
To make matters worse Steve White-Cooper was hobbling around and eventually had to be replaced at number eight by debutant 19-year old Alex Alesbrook on 36 minuntes. As half-time approached Rory Jenkins was deemed to be in an offside position disrupting quick ball. The referee decided to dispatch Jenkins to the sin-bin. Grayson struck the ball cleanly between the uprights to put Northampton ahead 16-14 at half-time.
The second half began with Grayson converting a penalty to stretch Saints advantage to five points. Quins rallied and again looked dangerous, but they could not capitalise on the territorial advantage.
Jenkins returned to the field, only to see Northampton break out up field. After three or four phases Craig Moir exposed a gap between Burrows and Gollings to score out wide. Grayson pulled the conversion wide, making the score 24-14 half way through the second half. The next 10 minutes saw both sides gain scoring opportunities with Burke converting two penalties to Grayson's one, taking the score to 27-20 at the half-hour mark.
During the final stages of play, sterling defence by Northampton stopped Quins gaining a draw. When the final whistle blew Quins could have no real complaints about the result, too many errors in the set piece and turning over too much ball cost them the game.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.