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Match Reaction: Northampton Saints 29 Harlequins 23

Northampton Saints are back where they need to be according to Jim Mallinder after they moved into the Aviva Premiership Rugby play-off places with a 29-23 win over Harlequins.

In a thrilling encounter at Franklin’s Gardens, Saints ran in four tries to secure a try-bonus victory, with Harlequins having to settle for just the one point despite leading by eight early in the second half.

And ahead of a clash with Wasps next week, Mallinder feels his team are starting to find their form building into the end of the season with just four rounds to go.

He said: "We were pleased to defend the lead and come away with five points.

"It was generally a very good performance.

"Defensively, we had a couple of lapses where we let them score relatively easy tries without having to do too much.

"We scored some cracking team tries, which I was pleased about.

"Certainly, bits of our defence we need to work on, but overall it was pretty good.

"We're back in the top four and that's where we wanted to get back to.

"We had a disappointing start to the season but we've been working hard.

"Particularly over the Six Nations period, we've done well, won the majority of our games and it's just nice to get these international players back.

"I was really impressed with George North, who was outstanding for us."

Alex Waller and Courtney Lawes went over in the first half for Saints, but it was Harlequins who led thanks to Tim Visser’s stunning try.

They extended that lead when Jack Clifford raced over early in the second half, but tries from Ben Foden and Harry Mallinder proved the difference.

Conor O’Shea was understandably frustrated at letting a lead slip but backed his team to finish the season strongly.

He said: “It was a very high quality game between two good sides. It's never going to be easy coming to Franklin's Gardens.

"I thought we had a real opportunity as we got into the second half and we got that lead from Jack's (Clifford) score.

"But there were some big penalties that went Northampton's way and the whole momentum shifts into your half. Those are the margins at the very highest level.

"We can't control anything ourselves now. We've just got to do a job against Newcastle next week and keep on playing to the best of our ability.

"We've got so much that we need to do for the remainder of this season.”
 
Northampton Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell (Mallinder 67), North; Myler, Dickson (Fotuali’i  59); Waller (Ma’afu 59), Haywood (Marshall 79), Brookes (Hill 47); Craig (Matfield 75), Lawes; Gibson (Dickinson 40), Wood, Harrison.
Not used: Hanrahan

Harlequins: Brown; Walker, Marchant, Roberts, Visser; Botica, Care (c); Marler, Gray (Ward 60), Collier (Sinckler 60); Merrick, Horwill; Clifford, Wallace, Easter (Robshaw 52).
Not used: Lambert, Luamanu, Dickson, Hopper, Chisholm
 
Scorers

Northampton Saints
Tries: Waller, Lawes, Foden, Mallinder.
Conversions: Myler 3.
Penalties: Myler.

Harlequins
Tries: Visser, Clifford.
Conversions: Botica 2.
Penalties: Botica 3.
 
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Attendance: 15,500

If you want to be at the world's biggest club rugby final, this year's Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on 28 May, tickets are still available from premiershiprugby.com/final.

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