Premiership: Harlequins 30-19 Northampton Saints - Quins go third after explosive first-half display

Mike Brown
Mike Brown went in for his fourth try of the campaign
Gallagher Premiership
Harlequins (27) 37
Tries: Green, Lewies, Brown, Herron Cons: Smith 3, Herron Pens: Smith 3
Northampton (12) 19
Tries: Collins, James, Sleightholme Cons: Hutchinson 2

Harlequins held off a Northampton fightback to go third in the Premiership with a fifth win in six.

Tom Collins and Tom James crossed for Saints either side of Tyrone Green and Stephan Lewies' quickfire brace in an explosive opening 15 minutes.

Mike Brown's try and Marcus Smith's second penalty gave the home side a decisive 27-12 half-time lead.

Ollie Sleightholme's kick and chase and two Quins sin-bins gave Saints hope, but Brett Herron sealed a bonus point.

Both clubs were looking to respond to narrow defeats which had ended four-game winning runs, and ultimately Quins' first-half clinical finishing, plus poor decision-making late on from the Saints with a two-man advantage, decided the game.

The reliable boot of the Premiership's leading point-scorer Smith was also a big factor, taking his tally for the season to 155 with a 100% record from his six kicks at goal.

The fly-half got his account up and running with an early penalty, but Northampton soon seized the lead when Fraser Dingwall's good line set up a two-on-one which Collins finished in the corner.

The hosts streaked into a 17-5 lead with two tries in three minutes, Green collecting Danny Care's grubber kick to dot down before Scott Baldwin pounced on a loose ball and set up Lewies to crash over.

But Saints, looking to break into the top four, again hit back swiftly when centre Dingwall skipped through and flicked a smart inside pass for Tom James to score his third try in two games.

The officials ruled out Care's score for an illegal turnover, but the former England scrum-half picked out Mike Brown running a perfect line to put daylight between the teams at the break.

Saints needed the next score to stay in the game and started the second half in dynamic fashion, as Dingwall seized on a loose ball from a Quins counter and the impressive Sleighthome did the rest.

Smith's third penalty took the cushion up to 11 points, but intense pressure forced the hosts into a series of infringements which saw two yellow cards in three minutes, firstly for Jack Kenningham and then Alex Dombrandt.

However, the visitors failed to take advantage, seeing their penalty scrum intercepted and then failing to find touch with a subsequent kick.

Their afternoon was capped with the last play when a half-blocked kick bounced to Luke Northmore, who sent Herron away for the bonus-point score.

Quins' fifth win from six games under general manager Billy Millard lifted them above Sale into third, while back-to-back defeats left Saints five points outside the top four in fifth.

Harlequins assistant coach Jerry Flannery:

"I don't know if we can keep this going until the end of the season, that's going to be a challenge.

"There is real belief in the squad now and a lot of senior players are taking strong leadership roles. It's whether we can keep our best players fit.

"This league is very, very tight. Two consecutive losses can drop you considerably. At the moment we have a bounce in form, but I can't tell you if we'll be top four.

"If we keep our best players fit we'll be competitive whoever we play."

Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd:

"To come away with no points is disappointing.

"I wasn't expecting to win at the end there, we were a fair way away, but it would have been nice to score one of the opportunities that we created at the back end of the game and perhaps come away with two bonus points.

"We created a little but the thing that's disappointing was that last week we didn't finish while this week we didn't create."

Harlequins: Brown; Morris, Marchant, Esterhuizen, Green; Care, Smith; Marler, Baldwin, Louw, Lamb, Lewies (capt), J Chisholm, White, Dombrandt.

Replacements: Gray, Els, Kerrod, Young, Kenningham, Landajo, Herron, Northmore.

Sin-bin: Kenningham (65), Dombrandt (68)

Northampton: Freeman; Collins, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Sleightholme; Furbank, James; Auterac, Matavesi, Hill, Coles, Ratuniyarawa, Isiekwe, Ludlam (capt), Wood.

Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Painter, Moon, Tonks, Taylor, Naiyaravoro, Mallinder.

Referee: Luke Pearce.