Northampton Saints extended their lead at the Aviva Premiership summit after beating Harlequins 17-13 at Franklin's Gardens on Friday.
Kicking off this weekend of Aviva Premiership action, the opening 25 minutes were far from a classic. Neither side were able to force themselves forward for a meaningful amount of time, with penalties stopping any chances of either side marching towards the try-line.
Harlequins were arguably on top, and they made that pressure count three minutes before the half hour mark when the first points did finally come. Quins took the lead through a Nick Evans kick after the Saints conceded a penalty from their own scrum, and that was exactly what the game needed to liven it up in front of the Franklin's Gardens crowd.
And they had to wait just a couple of minutes to see their side go over for the first try of the night. Northampton won a line-out right in the corner, and after biding their time, managed to maul themselves over the line with Samu Manoa the man carrying the ball. Stephen Myler's kick went in via a little help from the post as the league leaders managed to turn the game around just moments after going behind.
But Harlequins won themselves a second penalty after the restart, Evans kicking through again to drag his side to within a point. It seemed that the worst thing Quins could do was score at this point, as the hosts seemed to go up another notch every time they conceded a penalty.
Following Evans' second kick, Ken Pisi drove towards the line and eventually won his side a penalty well inside Quins 22. But this time they couldn't go over, instead knocking on as they failed to add to the lead.
Northampton took a single point lead into half-time, and came out defending that for their lives as Quins looked certain to grab their first try. It appeared as though Marland Yarde had gone over in the corner, but after a series of replays from the TMO, he deemed that Pisi had dragged him out of play just in time.
They again looked set to go over through Mark Lambert, but he and his side were adjudged to have committed a foul as they looked to cross the line and once again their push upfield counted for nothing. And they were made to pay big time from the next Saints attack. Following a line-out, a driving maul was formed and after the ball was switched across the field, James Wilson went over in the corner in a try which sums up the lack of bite from the Quins side that they have shown all season.
Myler couldn't kick the extras through, but it looked enough to finish off the visitors who should have been in lead by that point.
It got even worse for Quins, after they were reduced to fourteen men for ten minutes following a yellow card to Kyle Sinckler. He was penalised for a low tackle on Manoa, as the game slipped away from the struggling Harlequins.
Tom Wood took to the field in the second half, and in the process clocked up his 100th appearance in Saints colours. And what better way to bring up that milestone with a try. Wood profited from a Saints line-out which saw his side drive over the line past a beleaguered Quins who by this point had accepted their fate.
Sinckler returned from his time in the sin-bin with the game gone, and Quins searched for the bonus point in the last two minutes. Ollie Lindsay-Hague's pass to Charlie Walker saw the latter go over, but the pass was adjudged to have gone forward in a night where nothing seemed to run for the visitors.
However they did get the point that their display deserved right at the end. Marland Yarde found a pocket of space on the right hand side and was finally able to record Quins' first try try of the night. Ben Botica's conversion was the final action of the night, on a night where Quins' could well have taken more.
Tries: Manoa, Wilson, Wood
Pen: Evans 2
Northampton: 15 James Wilson, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson (c), 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Christian Day, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Gareth Denman, 2 Mike Hywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Phil Dowson, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Sam Olver, 23 Ahsee Tuala.
Harlequins: 15 Ugo Monye, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson,8 Netani Talei, 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Jack Clifford, 5 George Robson (c), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Sam Twomey, 20 Joe Trayfoot, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Assistant Referees: Ian Tempest, Gareth Copsey
TMO: Sean Davey