Match Reaction: Northampton Saints 25-18 Harlequins
Dylan Hartley’s second-half try proved the difference as Northampton Saints got off the mark in Gallagher Premiership Rugby with a 25-18 victory over Harlequins at Franklin’s Gardens.
Saints won the battle of the breakdown, and with 17 points from Dan Biggar, had just enough to see off Harlequins, for whom Danny Care and James Lang scored tries.
And following last weekend’s defeat at Gloucester Rugby, it was a crucial success for Chris Boyd’s side, who looked threatening for large periods, while also lacking the finishing touch at times.
Man of the match – Heinrich Brussow
What a difference a week makes. Heinrich Brussow was penalised six times at Gloucester in probably his most frustrating game in England to date. At Franklin’s Gardens it was a completely different story as he and Teimana Harrison combined to put Harlequins under huge pressure at every breakdown. Picking his battles, he contributed a couple of turnovers and Saints solved their discipline problems on their way to victory.
Try of the match
Marcus Smith impressed in defence and attack, but his replacement James Lang showed why he was part of Scotland’s squad on their summer tour. Spotting a gap outside Dan Biggar, he ran hard at the Welshman’s weak shoulder, shrugged off a tackle and raced through for Harlequins’ second try. Capable of playing fly-half or inside centre, Lang looked a threat with ball in hand.
Moment of the match
Chris Boyd’s Hurricanes teams were famed for their expansive play and attacking flair and there are already signs of that at Saints, even if the New Zealander readily admits there is a long way to go. Still, Saints’ bread and butter remains the set-piece, and there was something nostalgic about watching Hartley emerge from a rolling maul for the only Northampton try. The lineout and maul could easily have been taken from the title-winning side in 2013/14 and it made the difference on the night.
💬 “Those are the kind of games we were coming out on the wrong end of last year.”
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) September 7, 2018
What they said:
Northampton Saints captain Dylan Hartley: “Those were the ones we were losing last season. It is nice to draw a line under last season and come out the right side of one of those games.
“We talk about attacking shape and philosophy and those fluffy things, but the bedrock of Northampton Saints is a solid set-piece.
“It is nice that when needs be we can call upon it and use it effectively. There were times in that game when Harlequins defended really well and we forced things, trying to be a bit too creative. We went back to basics and the boys got me over the line.”
Northampton Saints director of rugby, Chris Boyd: “Dylan could have started last week. We’ve agreed that we’ll pick players, irrespective of past experience, on form.
“James Fish was really good for us pre-season. Dylan’s had a couple of nice little cameos off the bench, we’ll work out before next Saturday whether it’s the right thing for him to start.”
Harlequins director of rugby, Paul Gustard: “I was more proud of that performance than I was of the one at home the week before. Last week things came to us a bit, this week we had to fight for things, we had to find an answer to a problem. We showed tenacity, we showed fight, we showed courage.”
Best of social
— Ben Ryan (@benjaminryan) September 7, 2018
“@02msmith can’t defend”
Yeah he can!
What a recovery tackle 👊 pic.twitter.com/m43EfB52Rg
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 7, 2018
— Claire Jones (@redhatphoto) September 7, 2018