Alofa Alofa grabbed his first Aviva Premiership Rugby try for Harlequins but it was an assured second-half kicking performance from replacement Tim Swiel that saw his side over the line against Northampton Saints.
Quins led 8-6 at the interval thanks to Alofa’s try and returning fly-half Nick Evans’ penalty, but the first half was far from a vintage display from the tee from the Kiwi and his opposite number Stephen Myler – with the pair missing five kicks between them.
And in an attritional second half at Twickenham Stoop, Swiel outscored Myler by four penalties to one to take the final score to 20-9 and move the hosts above Northampton in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
It was an all-action start to the game from the hosts, despite losing loosehead prop Joe Marler just before kick-off with a back spasm and his replacement Mark Lambert six minutes in, but Evans could not punish Northampton for poor discipline in the opening ten minutes.
On his first appearance since the London Double Header, the No.10 missed a penalty from right in front of the posts with two minutes gone when Mikey Haywood was pinged at the breakdown.
He bounced back with a kick from a much longer distance just four minutes later, but then was wayward again when Northampton were penalised for a block as Teimana Harrison surged forwards.
But Evans was at his very best to create the space for the first try of the afternoon, swerving a tackle in his own half before the Quins back-line spread the ball wide for Alofa to score his first try for this club on his Twickenham Stoop debut.
Evans missed again from the tee with the conversion, and while Karl Dickson then thought he had scored when he somehow touched down Tim Visser’s awkwardly bouncing chip, the TMO ruled out the try for a block in the build-up.
And Myler made the hosts pay for their lack of ruthlessness with two penalties to bring the visitors back into the game – the first of which took him past Jonny Wilkinson’s Aviva Premiership Rugby point tally and into fifth in the all-time leaderboard.
However, he missed the chance to put his side ahead with two more penalties before the break, one coming off the post and the other slipping right of the upright with Harlequins’ discipline failing them as the half wore on.
John Kingston was forced to bring off Evans with an injury for Tim Swiel at the start of the second period, but the South African started off in style to release Visser down the left, and the Scotland international was only stopped from scoring by a brilliant covering tackle from scrum-half Nic Groom.
Swiel then knocked over a penalty on 46 minutes to extend Harlequins’ advantage before handling errors from both sides resulted in a scrappy period.
A brilliant carry from Kyle Sinckler sparked Quins into life however and they built the phases for Luke Wallace to go over in the left corner, but for the second time in the match the TMO penalised the hosts for a block in the build-up.
Kingston’s men began to pull away a little with another three points on the hour mark, Northampton feeling the pressure and conceding a penalty for slowing play down in front of the sticks.
Myler closed the gap to 14-9 to set up a tense final 15 minutes with his third penalty of the afternoon, but Courtney Lawes let the hosts off the hook with yet another penalty and Swiel did the honours.
Adam Jones had rolled back the years and played an unexpected 75 minutes of rugby out of position at loosehead, but he still had enough in the tank to win a 77th-minute scrum penalty and bring one of the loudest cheers of the afternoon – with Swiel again flawless from the tee to round off the scoring.