Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Harlequins review and player ratings

LEADING FROM THE FRONT - skipper Dylan Hartley capped a fine performance with a try (Picture: Linda Dawson)
LEADING FROM THE FRONT - skipper Dylan Hartley capped a fine performance with a try (Picture: Linda Dawson)
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To borrow some football terminology, Harlequins seemed to come for the draw at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.

So it is to Saints’ credit that they overcame a team whose disruption and delay made for a first half played at a snail’s pace.

Quins, aware that their hosts had won all five of their Premiership home games to that point, and in style, took their time to get to lineout and set up for scrums.

They aimed to take any possible flow out of Northampton and, for the first 40 minutes, it worked.

The teams headed in at half-time level at 6-6 in a fixture that was shaping up to be similar to the one between the sides at the Gardens last year, when Quins claimed an 18-9 win.

Then, Nick Evans landed six penalties in a stagnant affair, and Saints were desperate to avoid a repeat on this occasion.

That they did owed much to their new-found belief, their power game and the increased threat in the back line this season.

George North plays a big part in that, and the Wales wing’s try, which saw him brush aside England hopeful Charlie Walker on the way to the line, was a moment for Saints fans to savour.

As he did in the reverse fixture at The Stoop, North brought the game to life, showing just why he is worth the money Saints shelled out to bring him to the Gardens.

Captain Dylan Hartley was the leader of a pack that played the power game superbly, with Calum Clark among the others upping the intensity to a level Quins couldn’t cope with.

In the end, the away team didn’t even have a losing bonus point to show for their efforts.

But they are not the first side to suffer that fate.

Saints have played six home games in the Premiership this season, and no opposition outfit has left with anything other than a bruised ego.

The teams who have fared best at the Gardens have taken a different approach to Quins, who, it has to be said, saw their game plan aided by some indecisive officiating.

Leinster claimed a 40-7 win in the Heineken Cup thanks to a fast-paced start, keeping Saints on the back foot from the off.

Bath, too, looked sharp as they surged into a 13-0 lead and Sale were another side who attempted to play Saints at their own game early on.

On the flip side, Newcastle and Quins came to frustrate, trying to stay in the game for as long as possible before attempting to spring a surprise.

It didn’t work.

Saints have become an all-weather side, who find ways to win in whatever conditions they are presented with.

It is the sign of a team with strengths across the park, a team with immense capability in every department.

Saints are very similar to Saracens in that respect and that is why those two teams are currently well clear of the rest in the Premiership standings.

How they rated...

TOM COLLINS

So impressive in the way he takes everything in his stride and showed great confidence and composure, as well as displaying an impressive kicking game, which relieved pressure... 7

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Like his fellow backs, couldn’t get into the game in the first half as the game descended into a scrum battle, but did his bit in the second-half push... 7

GEORGE PISI

Was full of power and panache as he helped put Saints on the front foot with some great running. Only blot on the copybook was his late sin-binning... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

Pushed Quins back, with his power coming to the fore, and must surely have done enough to impress the watching England coaches... 7

GEORGE NORTH

So often the catalyst for Saints wins of late and this was no different. His barnstorming run and try gave his team the platform they needed to claim the win... 8

STEPHEN MYLER

Was hobbling for a long time during this game, but braved the dead leg he sustained to put in another impressive performance... 8

LEE DICKSON

Upped the tempo on a difficult night for the No.9s. Relished his battle with brother Karl and kept Saints moving forward... 7

ALEX WALLER

Got plenty of chances to impress in the scrum, which was a theme of the first half, and dominated Quins tighthead Will Collier... 7

DYLAN HARTLEY - CHRON STAR MAN

The skipper put his body on the line for this victory, making more tackles than any other Saints player and adding a try, too... 8

SALESI MA’AFU

The Australian prop has become such an important part of the Saints pack and he stood up to the challenge posed by England’s Joe Marler... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Made some big charges towards the Quins line and did more good work in the lineout on another impressive evening at the office... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

Didn’t grab the headlines this time, but was quietly efficient in another key contribution to a Saints success... 7

CALUM CLARK

Has really stepped things up in recent weeks and was so impressive here. His work at the breakdown and some of his carrying was exceptional... 8

PHIL DOWSON

Came in for Tom Wood and did well, showing his physicality in a good performance in attack and defence... 7

SAMU MANOA

Made some early inroads for Saints, attempting to blast holes in the Quins defence and was crucial to gaining territory... 7