Northampton Saints 25 Harlequins 18: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Though they were largely self-critical during their post-match interviews, the Saints players and management will have enjoyed the manner of their win against Harlequins on Friday night.

Saturday, 8th September 2018, 3:29 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th September 2018, 3:37 pm
Saints held out late on to see off Harlequins (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
Saints held out late on to see off Harlequins (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

It might not have been the 30-point success that man of the match David Ribbans said he would have preferred, but it was so satisfying nonetheless.

Because everyone at Franklin's Gardens knew that this kind of scrappy encounter was one their side would have often lost during the dark times of the past couple of seasons.

But on this occasion, they showed the kind of qualities that are the building block for any successful sports team.

With Harlequins knocking loudly on the door after the clock had gone dead, Saints' good work could have been wasted.

Had they conceded and the conversion been kicked, they would have snatched a draw from the jaws of victory.

That would have been an unfair reflection of a game which the home side controlled for long spells.

But Saints stepped up, bolting the door and refusing to let Quins pass.

Ahsee Tuala provided plenty of entertainment

Their linespeed was excellent all night and their appetite for making big hits and remaining compact will have delighted defence coach Alan Dickens.

And they showed those necessary qualities of character and composure under pressure.

Those things, particularly the composure, was lacking at times last season, as shown by their defeat at home to Newcastle Falcons last December.

Prior to the Quins clash, that Newcastle game was the last time Saints had played a Premiership home game under the Friday night lights.

Dylan Hartley rumbled over for Saints' only try

And what a difference nine months makes as Saints, reborn, showed that negative mindset has left them.

It was almost inevitable that the Falcons would score, but you didn't get that feeling this time round.

Instead, you had belief that Saints could get the job done, and that kind of mentality shift is exactly what has been required at the club since they started to slip from their perch.

This is not to say that all is rosy at the Gardens - new boss Boyd insists his side are only currently playing at about have of their capabilities.

Dan Biggar kicked 17 points for Saints

He knows time is needed for them to really get a grip of the game plan that has been put in place this summer.

But the fact they kept calm heads in a heated situation against Harlequins will only be a positive, especially as it showed how much they had progressed in the space of six days following the defeat at Gloucester.

On that occasion, they made too many rash decisions and mistakes.

But Boyd can be satisfied that they refused to do so again on this occasion.

The new era needed lift-off, and Saints got that against Harlequins.

Now they face another gargantuan test of their mettle when Saracens come to town next Saturday.

And considering Sarries smashed Saints with such ease so often last season, the game against the champions could really show the negative cloud has been removed from the skies above the Gardens.

How they rated...


Worth the entrance fee alone, the Samoan's showing, particularly during the first half, was eye-catching as he provided real entertainment with his footwork and offloading game... 7


Was unable to make an impact as he was forced off with a nasty looking wrist injury just 20 minutes into the game... 6


Made some big carries and hits as he bounced back from a difficult day at Gloucester with a strong showing... 7


Looks settled in the Saints 12 shirt now and he does not shy away from the physical battle, allying steel with silk... 7


Came so close to a stunning early score and his pace caused real problems for Quins when he got a chance to run into space... 7


Didn't have an easy debut at Gloucester, but this was a strong showing, with the fly-half kicking really well and only left disappointed by a missed tackle for James Lang's late try... 7


Thrived on the frenetic nature of this game and thought he had scored, only to be denied by the TMO during the second half... 7


Did not find favour with the referee as he gave away a few penalties, but he eventually got to grips with Quins in the scrum and around the field... 6


Took a knock early in the game and lost one lineout, but bounced back well enough before being replaced by Dylan Hartley... 6


Had a tough night in the scrum as Harlequins looked to get the better of Saints in that area, but did produce a few good carries... 6


Looked strong as Saints constantly used the lock to smash holes in the Harlequins rearguard, and he led the lineout well... 7


Another big performance from the England man as he carried continually and also delivered a huge defensive showing... 7


The Saints fans have already taken a liking to the flanker, and his energy and enthusiasm is there for all to see... 7


The South African ace appeared to be everywhere at times and after struggling with discipline at Gloucester, he was more Saint than sinner on this occasion... 7


Made a couple of key contributions at the breakdown and also did his best to push Harlequins back in contact at every opportunity... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)


A really impressive 60 minutes from the full-back, who provided real creativity and kicked well from hand and tee, landing a late penalty to round things off... 7

DYLAN HARTLEY (for Fish 46)

How good it is for Saints to have their co-captain fit and firing again? He came off the bench to add vital experience, and a timely try... 7

EHREN PAINTER (for Franks 57)

Another crucial cameo from the prop who showed his immense potential once again by helping to steady the scrum as Saints held out... 7