Director of rugby Jim Mallinder is not afraid to admit life is good at Northampton Saints after they saw off Harlequins to extend their lead at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
The reigning champions welcomed Quins to Franklin’s Gardens and collected four points with tries from Samu Manoa, James Wilson and Tom Wood – the latter in his 100th appearance for the club.
Marland Yarde’s last-gasp score salvaged a losing bonus point for the visitors but they couldn’t prevent the Saints from marching on, as they moved 13 points clear at the top of the pile.
Mallinder conceded a combative Harlequins side had made life hard for his charges but, with a handful of players away on international duty, he believes their third league win on the trot is a measure of the club’s strength in depth.
“At the moment you’re short of your international players and we feel a bit vulnerable and light, but we saw last week that we have a good squad playing well,” he said.
“It was a good game, Harlequins did a good job on us, particularly our lineouts, it stopped us really getting some fluency and putting many phases together.
“We’re slightly disappointed at the end we conceded that try and couldn’t go on to get a bonus point. But it’s a win, we didn’t play brilliantly, but we played well enough. We’re in good shape and looking forward to the run in.
“We feel in a good position, but nobody will remember us being in this position now if we don’t go on and achieve and that’s what we want to do.
“We won the Premiership last season and it’s a goal for us to win it again this season. It’s going to be difficult but we want to do that. We’ve got to really try and get a home semi-final then we go from there.”
For Quins it was an opportunity to put the pressure back on Gloucester Rugby, after they were leapfrogged by the Cherry & Whites last weekend.
Instead, it proved to be their third straight Aviva Premiership Rugby defeat but director of rugby Conor O’Shea insists he saw plenty of encouraging signs under the Friday night lights.
“I thought we fought magnificently out there and a lot of young players kept on going to the end,” he said.
“I’ve talked the whole year about little things not going our way but that will turn. When you’ve got an attitude like that, then that will turn and we will turn it.
“I’m terribly disappointed for the guys, but these things happen in sport and we’ll come out of the other side. We will play the next game and see where it takes us. We will play like that every week.”
Northampton Saints: Wilson, Pisi, Pisi, Stephenson, Elliot, Myler, Dickson (Fotuali’l 45), Waller (Corbisiero 45), Haywood (Williams 75), Denman (Mercey 61, Lawes, Day, Manoa, Clark (Dowson 61), Dickinson (Wood 52)
Replacements not used: Olver, Tuala
Harlequins: Monye (Lindsay-Hague 56), Yarde, Hopper, Sloan, Walker, Evans (Botica 68), Dickson (Tebald 78)i, Lambert (Marfo 71), Ward (Buchanan 75), Sinckler, Matthews, Robson (Twomey 61), Clifford, Wallace, Talei (Trayfoot 61)
Replacements not used: Shields
Tries: Manoa, Wilson, Wood
Penalties: Evans 2
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
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