Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Harlequins review and player ratings

STAR MAN - Kahn Fotuali'i shone for Saints against Quins (Picture: Linda Dawson)
STAR MAN - Kahn Fotuali'i shone for Saints against Quins (Picture: Linda Dawson)

There was a frisson of excitement around Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night as Saints’ swagger returned.

It hadn’t been seen since mid-March, but Jim Mallinder’s men finally rediscovered their best form at the expense of Harlequins.

There was tempo to their play, aggression and a dogged determination in defence that left Quins, with their quartet of England stars, reeling.

Danny Care, Mike Brown, who went off injured at half-time, Joe Marler and Chris Robshaw were powerless to prevent their side slipping to an 18-10 defeat.

Instead it was Saints’ squad which came to the fore, with none of the men who represented England in the Six Nations in the starting line-up.

It was reminiscent of the times during that tournament when players came from nowhere, stepped up to the plate and drove the club forward.

It gave the England players another reminder of the talent that is lying in wait if they fail to perform, and that can only be a good thing ahead of a huge few weeks.

Saints now have an Amlin Challenge Cup final to look forward to, added to an Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final.

And the European progression is undoubtedly a good thing as it eases a little pressure in the pursuit of silverware.

Should Saints win the Amlin, it could prove to be the catalyst for Premiership success.

Why? Because the club go into the game at Cardiff on May 23 having lost their past four finals.

If they were to win the European encounter, it could inject the belief needed to secure the league title, presuming Saints make it through the semi-final tie.

With the kind of form they showed at the Gardens on Friday night, Mallinder’s men are capable of achieving their aims.

They now need to ensure they now remain on an upward curve going into a month that could become the best in the club’s history.

How they rated...

JAMES WILSON

His booming boot was a great weapon once again and he is turning out to be rugby’s equivalent of Jenson Button: a master in the rain... 8

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Bounced back superbly from his early sin-binning, producing a performance packed with desire and intelligence... 8

GEORGE PISI

Stood tall in the Saints midfield, stopping Quins’ ball carriers from getting any momentum on a night dominated by the home side... 7

TOM STEPHENSON

Made some big carries for the team, gaining plenty of ground and pushing Harlequins back. Also impressed in defence... 7

GEORGE NORTH

Forced off inside the first 21 minutes, meaning he didn’t have too much time to affect the game... 6

STEPHEN MYLER

Steady as ever with the boot and kept Saints ticking over as they poured pressure on to Quins, especially during the first half... 7

KAHN FOTUALI’I - CHRON STAR MAN

A dazzling display from the Samoan, who just gets better and better. Scored one and set up another as he got the better of Danny Care in the scrum-half battle... 9

ALEX WALLER

Was dominant in the scrum and determined in the loose as Saints had the edge in almost every department... 7

ROSS MCMILLAN

Big performance from the hooker, who shows his desire with every run. Made a big break that put Saints in position for a try and did nothing wrong... 8

SALESI MA’AFU

Strong night in the scrum for the Australian, who fronted up to Joe Marler. Saints don’t give away an inch with this man in their side... 7

SAMU MANOA

Wasn’t the eye-catching performance we’ve so often seen from the season’s star man, but he was quietly effective in a gargantuan team display... 7

JAMES CRAIG

The lock is a real talent and he showed why here. Made some impressive breaks, looked steady in the lineout and chopped Quins players down with ease... 8

CALUM CLARK

Put everything he had into this once again, with some bustling breaks and some good work at the breakdown... 7

PHIL DOWSON

The skipper was in determined mood as he carried the fight to Quins, bashing them back and staying strong in defence... 8

SAM DICKINSON

Another massive showing from the No.8, whose immense physicality caused problems for Quins... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

TOM COLLINS (for North 21)

Another night that displayed the young man’s great promise as he entered the action early on and scored a picturebook try to set Saints on their way... 8

TOM MERCEY (for Ma’afu 53)

Shed blood for the cause and put his body on the line as Quins tried to apply some second-half pressure... 7

COURTNEY LAWES (for Manoa 58)

Came into the game at a time when Quins were starting to turn the tide and helped make sure they only had one score to show for their efforts... 6

TOM WOOD (for Clark 58)

Made some good hits as he joined the Saints defensive line. His influence was important late on... 6