Harlequins let a 12-point lead slip at Franklins Gardens, as Northampton Saints scored 24 unanswered second half points to claim victory by 29-22 in their pre-season friendly. Academy winger Seb Stegman scored two of Quins four tries in the match, but a hat-trick of touchdowns from Saints winger Paul Diggin turned the game on its head during the second 40 minutes.
It was the visitors who enjoyed the early pressure and were rewarded for their efforts with seven minutes on the clock. A fine break from Tosh Masson resulted in Charlie Amesbury being held-up just short of the line. With the ball being recycled and sent out to the right, Stegman was able to dive over in the corner for the opening try that Seb Jewell was unable to convert from wide out.
Jewell was then helped off the field after being knocked out following an attempted challenge on Saints winger Bruce Reihana. After fly half Barry Everitt missed a relatively simple penalty, the home side were back on level terms five minutes into the second quarter when scrum half and ex-Quin Ian Vass took a quick free kick deep inside the visitors twenty-two that allowed Diggin to claim the first of his four tries.
However, Quins hit back straight from the restart after Vass turned over possession that resulted in Stegman finishing off a simple move to claim his second try. Mike Brown took over the kicking duties, but failed to add the two extra points on offer meaning Quins restored their five-point lead (5-10).
The visitors extended their advantage four minutes before the break, with Chris Robshaw making the telling break through the Saints midfield. Brown was in support to take the scoring pass and claim Quins third try of the afternoon, which Danny Care converted to open up a 12-point lead (5-17) at the halfway stage.
The home side started their fight back 12 minutes after the restart. Full back Carlos Spencer broke the line at pace that created a second try for Diggin wide out. Everitt missed the conversion, but the fly half then single handedly leveled the score at the start of the final quarter when he touched down under the posts and made no mistake with the simple conversion.
The visitors cause was not helped when Tom Williams was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and shortly after this Northampton took the lead for the first time in the game. Diggin claimed his hat-trick on the overlap after Saints secured the ball at a scrum, which made the score 22-17.
The match winning score followed with six minutes left on the clock. Spencer gathered his own chip ahead and had centre Jon Clarke in support to carry the move forward, who in turn released Diggin to run-in his fourth try of the afternoon. A successful conversion from Everitt put the Saints into a 12-point lead (29-17).
Shortly before the final whistle and Amesbury weaved his way over for a try following a period of sustained pressure, but it was no more than a consolation score that Jewell failed to convert.
Final score, 29-22.
Northampton: 15. Carlos Spencer, 14. Paul Diggin, 13. Jon Clarke, 12. Robbie Kydd, 11. Bruce Reihana, 10. Barry Everitt, 9. Ian Vass, 1. Simon Emms, 2. Paul Shields, 3. Barry Stewart, 4. Damien Browne, 5. Alex Rae, 6. Karl Rudzki, 7. Darren Fox, 8. Mark Easter
Replacements: 16. Dave Ward, 17. Terry Sigley, 18. Christian Short, 19. Paul Tupai, 20. Mark Robinson, 21. James Downey, 22. Will Harries, 23. Jon Vickers
Harlequins: 15. Tom Williams, 14. Charlie Amesbury, 13. Ugo Monye, 12. Tosh Masson, 11. Seb Stegmann, 10. Seb Jewell, 9. Danny Care, 1. Aston Croall, 2. Chris Brooker, 3. Ricky Nebbett, 4. James Percival, 5. Nicolas Spanghero, 6. George Robson, 7. Chris Robshaw, 8. Phil Davies
Replacements: 16. John Brooks, 17. Mark Lambert, 18. James Inglis, 19. Jim Evans, 20. Paul Volley, 21. Matt Rhodes, 22. Ryan Manyika, 23. Mike Brown
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.