Saturday, 8th October 2016 @ 17:40
Harlequins closed out a hard fought 20-9 win at home to leapfrog Northampton Saints into 8th on the Aviva Premiership table.
Alofa Alofa scored his first try for the Club as he gave the home side an 8-6 lead at the break, as both Nick Evans and Stephen Myler missed numerous kicks from the tee.
Tim Swiel would replace Evans at half time and kick four penalties as a gutsy team performance set up a 20-9 win in front of a sold out Stoop.
Earlier, Harlequins had arrived at their home ground looking to bounce back from the loss away to Wasps last week.
Three away loses across the season had pushed Harlequins near the foot of the Premiership table but they kicked off knowing they had won both matches in Twickenham so far, once at the national stadium before the memorable win over Saracens in their Stoop opener.
The Londoners were on the front foot early and were rewarded for their ambition with three penalties inside the opening ten minutes.. Nick Evans, back from injury, could only convert one to make it 3-0.
The flyhalf however was classy with ball in hand and he guided his backline nicely to set up Alofa for his first try in the quarters, and an 8-0 lead.
The home side’s defence would also dominate the match as they would cause plenty of turnovers thanks to their ferocious back row.
Harlequins were denied a pair of tries in the opening quarter, First Alofa thought he had a brace before Referee Ian Tempest called it back for an earlier knock on. Then Karl Dickson went close to a try of the season contender, but couldn’t quite touch down in goal following a lovely run and chip from Tim Visser
Saints would work their way back into the match with a pair of Myler penalties but he pushed a third wide as the clock ran down on the half with Harlequins leading 8-6.
England coach Eddie Jones was present in the stands and it was his internationals who began to shine. Mike Brown snaffled everything in the air, Marland Yarde beat defenders across the pitch, and Chris Robshaw (joined by Luke Wallace) terrorised the opposition at the breakdown. But Kyle Sinckler shined brighter than them all, taking the man of the match award.
Fresh of a contract extension the 23 year-old put in a man of the match performance with some memorable midfield runs and tidy handling around the breakdown. He was also joined by Adam Jones (who had replaced Mark Lambert at loosehead early) to win a handful of crucial scrum penalties in the second half. Lambert himself was a late call up to the starting team after Joe Marler reported with back spasm as was withdrawn from the match.
While they failed to score a try in the second half, Harlequins' dominance in possession eventually wore the visitors down and Swiel would benefit with a perfect four from four with the boot.
In the closing seconds Brown and Tim Visser looked to combine for a final score but Ben Foden knocked the ball away with the try line begging. The TMO was consulted but it wasn’t ruled deliberate and the score remained 20-9.
While the crowd was disappointed with the decision, and some earlier 50/50 calls, they still erupted as the whistle was blown for full time.
While it hasn’t been an ideal start to the 150th season, Harlequins now have three wins and have forced themselves up to eighth in the table as they head into a two week European period.
Harlequins will open the European competition for the third season in a row as their face Stade Francais on Thursday night at The Stoop (kick-off 19:45)