Saturday, 27th December 2014 @ 19:00
In front of a sold out Twickenham Stadium, Harlequins secured a losing bonus point against reigning Aviva Premiership champions Northampton Saints with a 78th minute try from replacement Sam Twomey.
Harlequins’ young players stepped up and made their presence felt with George Lowe, Jack Clifford and Twomey making sure Quins benefitted from their free-flowing style of rugby to keep the Saints within sight and the crowd thoroughly entertained throughout the match.
With three tries a piece, the game was anyone’s for the taking in the final two minutes as only five points separated the sides, however, the Saints clung on to finish the match 25-30 winners.
In one of the most encouraging starts to a match all season, Harlequins were in front within the first six minutes. After breaking numerous tackles, a surging run from Lowe brought Quins up to Saints’ 22, where the ball was recycled and worked to the right hand side.
Marland Yarde flung a lofty pass which dropped to find Mike Brown who offloaded to Lowe to touch down in the corner. Tim Swiel missed the resulting touchline conversion but Quins and the crowd were firmly in full swing.
Three minutes later Saints were penalised for going off their feet in the ruck and Swiel increased the lead to 8-0.
However, it was not long before Northampton found their rhythm. After Joe Trayfoot was penalised, Stephen Myler began a perfect day from the tee with Saints’ first penalty.
Nearing the 20 minute mark, Tom Wood collected the ball in the air from the line out and Northampton formed a driving maul. Despite some initial resistance from Harlequins’ pack, Samu Manoa twisted out of the maul and scored to the left of the posts.
Myler converted to put Northampton ahead by 8-10 and the reigning champions never relinquished the lead again.
In the 34th minute, Saints went down to 14 men after Salesi Ma’afu was sent to the bin for tackling Lowe around the head. However, it was Saints who took the remaining points of the half with a penalty after Quins were penalised for coming in at the side, making the half-time score 8-13.
The second half started with a fortuitous try from the visitors. Swiel had his clearing kick charged down Manoa. The number eight offloaded to George North and the winger scored in the left hand corner in the 44th minute. This brought the gap between the sides to 8-20.
In the 48th minute Danny Care’s pass found the hands of Ken Pisi but superb chasing back and a tip tackle from Swiel on Northampton’s 10m line, prevented any further damage. The 21-year-old then successfully kicked a penalty to bring the score to a less daunting 11-20.
Ten minutes later, Northampton were awarded a penalty after dominating in the scrum and Myler punished the home side with another three points.
However, the next phase of play belonged to Harlequins. Working their way up towards Saints’ line, impressive carries from Joe Trayfoot, Ugo Monye and Marland Yarde brought Quins within touching distance of the line when Swiel skipped over the Saints’ defence on the floor to come within millimetres of scoring.
The ball was kept left and with all the Saints defence pinned in the corner, the home side shipped the ball wide for Jack Clifford to score on the right. Swiel converted to make the score 18-23.
The last ten minutes provided great entertainment with two tries. Saints scored through Kahn Fotuali’I and in the remaining five minutes, a superb tap and go from Care saw the scrum-half bring play up to Saints’ 22. Quins firmly kept possession in the resulting phases and Twomey eventually touched down to the delight of the Twickenham crowd.
With Swiel’s conversion, the scoring was rounded off along with a thoroughly entertaining Big Game 7.