NEC Harlequins suffered their sixth straight defeat in the Zurich Premiership and their fifth league defeat at home this season by losing 16-24 to Northampton Saints. Two second half penalties and a drop goal from former England fly half Paul Grayson gave the visitors the points as they turned around a 16-15 deficit. Playing with the wind in the first half, Quins went into the break trailing 9-10 as a try from Tom Smith gave the visitors a crucial advantage.
The home side opened the scoring after just three minutes. With Northampton being adjudged offside, Paul Burke kicked the first of his three penalties in the match to give Quins the lead. Grayson responded in similar fashion six minutes later with Quins being penalised for hands in the ruck. Burke put Quins back in front with his second penalty after 15 minutes but from the restart his opposite number Grayson had the chance to level the scores once again, though the fly half failed to find the target with his penalty attempt.
With almost a quarter of the game played, Northampton took the lead for the first time. A powerful rolling maul from the pack ended with Smith diving over to score by the posts. Grayson slotted the simple conversion to give the visitors a 10-6 lead. Quins hit back but couldn't make the most of an excellent break from David Slemen. With the game in first half injury time, Grayson was sent to the sin bin for deliberate offside and Burke kicked the resulting penalty to cut the deficit down to a single point, 9-10, at the halfway stage.
Despite being down to 14 men, it was Northampton who made the first impression on the scoreboard in the second half. A powerful drive from the pack led to Nick Beal making a break in the midfield. The full back then fed Cohen who had a simple run-in for the try. Beal took over the kicking duties in Grayson's absence but failed to add the two extra points on offer, though Northampton now led 15-9.
Quins hit back and scored a cracking try to retake the lead. Nick Duncombe made an excellent break from the base of a scrum and took play into the Northampton twenty-two. The ball went wide and Chris Bell cut through the gap and dived over the line for his second try of the season. Burke converted and Quins led by a point, 16-15, but it would turn out to be their last points in the match.
The power of the Northampton pack started to take control in the forward battle and as the game entered the final quarter Grayson kicked his second penalty of the afternoon after Quins were penalised for pulling down the maul. A third Grayson penalty after 67 minutes then took Northampton five points clear, 16-21. Any hopes Quins had of getting back into the game ended with five minutes left to play as Grayson added a drop goal to his tally and put the away side eight points and two scores in front. The fly half had the chance to increase Northampton's winning margin right at the end but was wide with his penalty attempt.
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.