Harlequins 26 Northampton Saints 25: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

At the Twickenham Stoop on Friday night, Saints shot for the stars and ultimately fell on their backside.

Saturday, 20th November 2021, 2:50 pm
Geordie Irvine

Because with the game in their grasp during the second half, they opted to chase a bonus point rather than taking a kick at goal that would have given them some much needed breathing space.

And it came back to bite them as Harlequins overcame a six-point deficit, with a 73rd-minute Luke Wallace try and a Jamie Benson conversion sparking scenes of celebration at the Stoop.

For Saints it really was a case of what might, and should, have been.

After a sluggish start for the fourth week in succession, in which they gave themselves a mini-mountain to scale, they took control of the Premiership Rugby Cup clash.

Saints roared back from 14-0 down to lead 19-14 at half-time thanks to tries from George Hendy, Mike Haywood and Josh Gillespie.

And when James Grayson' s boot extended the lead to 25-14, it looked like Harlequins had run out of steam.

Even when Saints lost two men to the sin bin, the hosts found themselves frustrated.

Josh Gillespie put Saints ahead before the break

Saints were in total control of the scrum, squeezing penalty after penalty out of Quins.

A chink of light did appear for the hosts when they bagged their third try of the night.

But that hope could and should have been extinguished when Saints won a penalty in the final 10 minutes.

They could have gone for goal, from a position that fly-half Grayson would have expected to notch three points from.

James Grayson

But instead, they went for the corner, seeking a try that would not only finish the game but that would also hand them the full five points.

It was a decision that didn't work out as Quins held firm and then mounted a breakaway, which ended with traditional Northampton nemesis Wallace powering over.

Benson did the business from the tee and suddenly Saints were behind.

Try as they might, they couldn't find a way to get back in front.

And the questions came as to why those three points weren't taken.

It seemed at the time that Grayson could have been suffering from cramp. He was struggling to run late on and you wondered whether his fatigue was the reason why Saints didn't go for goal.

But that was apparently not the case, as assistant coach Matt Ferguson explained after the game that Saints gave full backing to their maul as they sought the full five points.

As it was, they ended up with just one.

Had they pocketed the fourth try, no one would have mentioned the decision-making.

But such is rugby that it was the key talking point when the game concluded.

There were other things to discuss, such as another below-par start from Saints, who have now lost four successive matches.

Two of those games have been in the Premiership Rugby Cup, in which performances matter more than results.

But there is no doubt that the winning feeling that Harlequins enjoyed and Saints did not does wonders for a club.

And Saints have now been without it for far too long.

They are in desperate need of a victory when their senior stars return to face Bristol Bears in a Gallagher Premiership game at Ashton Gate on Friday night.

If they are unable to prevail, they will head into December on a five-match losing streak.

And with the fixture list refusing to ease up for any prolonged period, that is not a position they will want to be in.

How they rated...

GEORGE HENDY

Grabbed his second try in as many matches and did some good things in the game, though he was tested aerially and defensively... 6.5

JOSH GILLESPIE

Grabbed another try and has been one of the better performers of the past two weeks, making things happen with ball in hand... 7

TOM LITCHFIELD

Has the power and pace to play at the top level and he didn't shy away from the physical confrontation here... 6.5

RORY HUTCHINSON

Came off the field with Saints leading, and plenty of that was due to his magic as he superbly set up Hendy for the opening score and looked a class apart at times... 7

TOM COLLINS

Wasn't really able to make too much of an impact on the game and was hit by a second-half sin-binning... 5.5

JAMES GRAYSON

Kicked well from the tee, missing just once, but some of his accuracy wasn't quite there at times in open play... 6

CONNOR TUPAI

A sparky showing from the scrum-half, who was keen to take the responsibility on his shoulders as he sought to keep Quins on their toes... 6.5

MANNY IYOGUN

Wasn't able to make too much of an impact as he was forced off with an injury inside half and hour, but did compete hard at the breakdown while he was on... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

An assured showing that included a try and some very steady lineout showing. Great for Saints to have this man back... 7

CONOR CAREY

A big display from the prop, which ultimately earned him a few more minutes on the field than initially planned... 7

ALEX MOON

Used his sizeable frame to decent effect at times and worked hard for his team throughout... 6.5

ALEX COLES

A captain's performance from the lock as he was hugely active around the field, competing and carrying hard... 7

KARL WILKINS

Always seems to make some metres when he gets hold of the ball and his physicality has been a plus for Saints during the past two weeks... 6.5

OLLIE NEWMAN

Put plenty of effort in for his team and didn't do too much wrong during his time on the field... 6

GEORDIE IRVINE

One of the stand-out players on the day for Saints and he looks to be relishing the challenge of playing at this level... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

NICK AUTERAC (for Iyogun 28)

Another strong showing from the bench from the prop as Saints smashed Quins in the scrum for long periods of the game... 7

TOM JAMES (for Tupai 54)

Plenty of up-tempo play from the scrum-half when he got the chance but Quins started to hit back and he was unable to get enough of the ball in dangerous areas... 5.5

JAMES FISH (for Haywood 58)

Played his part in a strong set-piece showing for Saints but ultimately it didn't prove to be enough... 6.5

CHRON STAR MAN - Lennox Anyanwu (Harlequins)