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Match Report: Northampton Saints 25-18 Harlequins

07 Sep 2018
Match Report: Northampton Saints 25-18 Harlequins

Dylan Hartley came off the bench to score a crucial try as Northampton Saints overcame Harlequins 25-18 to get their Gallagher Premiership Rugby season up and running.

The England captain got his hands on the ball from a rolling maul to dot down the decisive try just before the hour as Saints held on for a nervy success, with Danny Care and James Lang both crossing for the visitors.

The first half was a tight affair with both teams threatening but neither able to convert chances into points although Marcus Smith needed to be sharp early on to get back and tackle Tom Collins when he seemed set to score.

He did the same again soon after and then gave Harlequins the lead with a straightforward penalty after a breakdown infringement.

The battle on the deck was one of the defining aspects of the first half, with Saints responding through three Dan Biggar penalties, the last on the stroke of half-time to give the home side a 9-3 interval lead.

Northampton almost had the first try early in the second half when Harry Mallinder, on as a first-half replacement, collected a kick-through that had deflected off a Harlequins boot. He then found Cobus Reinach but the South African scrum-half was held up over the line by Elia Elia. From the resulting field position they did at least earn a penalty which Biggar converted to make it a two-score game.

Instead it was Harlequins who finally broke the try deadlock, Care sniping smartly after an extended period of pressure in Saints territory. Smith converted to cut the deficit to two.

That appeared to spark Saints and they earned a penalty from the restart to get back into the Harlequins 22. From there they turned to their maul and there was nothing Harlequins could do to stop Hartley. Biggar’s conversion made it 19-10.

The two fly-halves then exchanged penalties but heading into the final ten minutes, Saints still held a nine-point lead. That was soon cut to four with Lang showing his power to brush off Biggar and race over from the 22 although his conversion was just wide.

Back came Saints, with Biggar claiming a high ball to set up another penalty, Mallinder converting as the fly-half got treatment. And from there they held on, despite Harlequins piling on huge pressure at the death in the search of a draw.