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Northampton Saints 9 Harlequins 18 Northampton Saints 9 Harlequins 18

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Northampton Saints 9 Harlequins 18

The boot of Nick Evans proved the difference as Harlequins maintained their place at the top of the Aviva Premiership with victory over Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens.

In tough conditions, running with the ball was particularly difficult and the game was very much a battle between the forwards on the ground and ability under the high ball.

But Evans racked up all of his team’s points and fittingly had the last kick of the game to round off a fine 18-point performance and deny Saints a losing bonus point.

Quins’ forward pack showed early dominance as they forced the Saints back ten yards before winning a penalty which Evans converted.

But the scrum evened up and Stephen Myler scored one of his own to square it up after 19 minutes.

Handling was proving tricky and the boot was dominating the game – Evans slotting over another three points on 28 minutes after he and Myler exchanged misses.

A cheeky kick from Evans put some pressure on the Saints line-out which was being well contested but they passed the test as the half entered its final stages.

And with the wet weather affecting much of the running play, the half ended with Quins just ahead in a tight game.

Nick Easter threatened with a fine kick and go which teammate Danny Care would have been proud of, running a half-length of the pitch, but the No.8 was caught and brought down ten yards short of the line by Ben Foden just minutes after the break.

Evans missed a seemingly simple penalty to open the gap to six on 47 minutes but Quins kept on the attack as Ugo Monye broke through a few tackles but some feverish defence kept them at bay long enough for the slippery ball to go loose.

James Johnston was sent to the sin bin on 55 minutes for not rolling away but Saints were unable to make the absence felt despite levelling things up through Myler.

The match saw two of England’s best full-backs in Foden and Mike Brown and they were given plenty to do from high balls – but it was Foden’s attempt to run which led to Evans’ penalty to make the score 9-6.

And as Johnston returned to the pitch Evans added another to stretch the gap – a vital gap considering the difficulty to score in the conditions.

And with eight minutes to go it appeared Harlequins had done enough when Evans took his points tally to 15 with an easy kick in front of the posts.

On 75 minutes Saints kept themselves just in touch when substitute Ryan Lamb squeezed a penalty through the posts from a tight angle, but Quins held on and Evans slotted a final penalty with the last kick of the game.

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