James Wilson grabbed the only try of the game as Northampton Saints defeated Harlequins 13-6 to begin their season with back-to-back victories in the Aviva Premiership.
In atrocious conditions at the Stoop the two sides began the second half locked at 3-3 after Northampton had failed to make the most of Wilson’s incisive first-half break and the New Zealander had produced a try-saving tackle on Mike Brown.
However, after Quins failed with three penalty attempts at the start of the second half, Wilson provided the cutting edge for Saints, crossing in the corner just after the hour.
In all Harlequins missed five times from the kicking tee, with Nick Evans spurning four chances and replacement Ben Botica cracking his attempt into the post as they tasted defeat for the first time this season.
Harlequins dominated the opening five minutes and Saints winger Ken Pisi was forced to scramble back to thwart Tom Williams’ chip and chase before Evans missed from the tee after Calum Clark was penalised.
However, it was Northampton who took the lead on ten minutes when Stephen Myler slotted a simple penalty after the Harlequins scrum was penalised in front of their own posts.
Harlequins could have levelled it almost immediately only for Evans to miss his second penalty of the night after which Joe Gray was helped off with an ankle injury to be replaced by Rob Buchanan.
Myler then missed with a penalty from the left touchline and with just over ten minutes of the half remaining Quins almost registered the first try of the night.
England captain Chris Robshaw swept up the ball after Northampton prop Alex Corbisiero was tackled deep in Quins territory and set the home side on the counter.
Saints winger George North, in his first real act of the half, was forced to carry the ball into touch but from a quick lineout play was switched to the left where Ugo Monye was narrowly beaten by the bounce of the ball.
Regardless, the home side held the momentum and when Northampton were penalised soon after, Evans made it third time lucky to level the scores.
Saints were penalised twice in the first four minutes of the second half with Evans missing the first attempt but succeeding with the second to edge the home side in front.
Northampton levelled through the boot of Myler before Evans missed from the tee for the fourth time.
It was to be Evans’ last contribution as he was replaced by fellow Kiwi Botica, whose first act was to arrow a penalty attempt straight against the right post.
North attempted to spark the game into life with an electric break down the flank that left a pair of Quins defenders trailing in his wake only for the move to break down when Jamie Elliott was penalised for holding on.
Moments later Saints had the try they were seeking on 62 minutes when the ball was charged down from a scrum and after play was switched to the right by Luther Burrell, the impressive Wilson was on hand to slide over the line.
Myler converted to give Northampton a 13-6 lead and despite frantic late attempts Quins failed to find the try they required, with both sides finishing with 14 men after Nick Easter and Myler were yellow carded in separate incidents.