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Match Reaction: Northampton Saints 36 Harlequins 10

Match Reaction: Northampton Saints 36 Harlequins 10

Ken Pisi crossed twice as Northampton Saints moved through to the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals with a comfortable victory against Harlequins.

George North scored on his return to the Saints team, while Tom Stephenson, Ahsee Tuala and Pisi all crossed in the first half.

Mark Lambert responded from close range before Pisi crossed again after the break.

Joe Marchant got a consolation for Quins but their future is up in the air ahead of Exeter Chiefs’ battle with Saracens on Saturday.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Strong at the set-piece and dangerous in the loose, hooker Mike Haywood was supreme throughout the match.

The 26-year-old was at the heart of the Saints’ first-half blitz, supplying North with a delightful pass for the first try inside seven minutes, while he made eight tackles and threw seven successful line-outs.

With Dylan Hartley now on England duty, Haywood has a chance to re-establish himself in the Saints side and this is a promising start.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

It has been a tough season for winger George North, so all the home fans at Franklin’s Gardens will have been relieved to see him dive over for the first try.

North pulled out on the eve of Saturday’s win at Sale Sharks and is trying to prove his fitness to Wales head coach Warren Gatland.

And he certainly looked sharp in the first half, taking his try brilliantly while he remained a nuisance throughout – making 103 metres with ball-in-hand.

TRY OF THE MATCH

Already seven points behind, Harlequins needed to get a foothold in the contest – but instead they, quite literally, threw it away.

The Saints defence was hustling Quins’ backs and an error came, as Jamie Gibson latched onto a mis-placed pass and took advantage.

The speedy flanker darted downfield with limited options but had the composure to pick out Tom Stephenson, who strolled in for the score.

WHAT THEY SAID

Northampton Saints interim head coach Alan Dickens:

“We were inaccurate in the second half, but we did what we needed to do.

“We got the win and it puts us in the position that we’re ahead of them in the pecking order so we could get a home semi-final.

“We knew what we needed to do. We knew it came down to tries and then points difference and we finished 12 ahead of them so it’s good.”

Harlequins forwards coach Graham Rowntree:

“They picked a strong team, but we didn’t pick a weak team.

“Our team was pretty good in terms of experience, but I’m just disappointed with our errors.

“I said to the lads that I wasn’t upset with their attitude and their energy, because that was good an we didn’t give up, but we just can’t come and make those errors.”

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This year’s Anglo-Welsh Cup Final will be at the iconic Kingsholm Stadium, home of Gloucester Rugby, on Sunday 18 March. To buy tickets and be part of an unforgettable occasion click here

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