Planet Rugby

Saints drawn into relegation fight

17th February 2007 16:53

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Ben Cohen; Mel Deane Northampton v Harlequins

Ben Cohen on the charge

Northampton Saints look like they will spend the rest of the season battling for survival after going down 15-28 to Harlequins in the Guinness Premiership on Saturday.

Despite the return of Carlos Spencer and Bruce Reihana Saints slipped to their fifth straight Premiership defeat, largely thanks to the boot of Quins fly-half Adrian Jarvis.

Jarvis kicked three second-half penalties to wrap up his side's sixth in seven games to keep alive their play-off hopes.

The return of Spencer and Reihana will be a timely boost for the Saints who are only four points clear of fellow strugglers Worcester.

Quins had also been in trouble at the bottom before a run of five straight wins lifted them up the table.

That run came to an end in a previous game at Bath and Quins were aiming to complete a double over Saints having grabbed their first Premiership win this season against them in November.

But they had not won in Northampton for almost a decade and suffered a setback inside the opening two minutes when Stuart Abbott had to be replaced after a collision.

Quins still went ahead in the fourth minute when scrum-half Andy Gomarsall charged down Carlos Spencer's kick to cross and Adrian Jarvis added the extras.

Jarvis missed a 10th-minute penalty and Northampton struggled to find a way back. They looked bereft of confidence having scored only 45 points in their previous five Premiership games and lost possession on the three occasions they got deep into Quins territory inside the opening quarter.

Tempers reached boiling point midway through the first half when Saints lock Christian Short and Quins skipper Paul Volley were yellow carded for fighting.

Saints winger Ben Cohen then appeared to push over one of the touch judges during another clash near the touchline before Northampton claimed their first points after 27 minutes when number eight Paul Tupai was driven over in the corner after a five metre line-out.

Spencer missed the conversion and that meant Quins led 7-5 at the break.

Saints got the second-half off to the perfect start. Cohen beat David Strettle to Jarvis' re-start and set off on a rampaging run down the middle of the pitch. He shrugged off the attentions of Ugo Monye to crash over between the posts. Reihana added a conversion to put Saints in front 12-7 but the joy was short-lived.

Quins got the ball wide soon after the re-start and Strettle side-stepped Cohen to cross in the corner for his seventh try of the season after 46 minutes.

Jarvis missed the conversion and that meant the scores remained tied at 12-12.

Saints suffered another blow when Darren Fox was yellow carded after 53 minutes as Jarvis kicked the resulting penalty.

He added another from 45 metres after 61 minutes to open up a six-point lead for the visitors that was pegged back to three by Reihana's penalty six minutes later.

Northampton then gifted the visitors chance to re-establish a six point lead. A push on volley led to a penalty that Jarvis belted over to make it 21-15 with nine minutes left.

There was no way back for Northampton from there and Steve So'oialo grabbed a third try for Quins in the dying moments. Jarvis added the conversion.

The scorers:

For Northampton:

Tries: Tupai, Cohen

Con: Reihana

Pen: Reihana

For Harlequins:

Tries: Gomarsall, Strettle, So'oialo

Cons: Jarvis 2

Pens: Jarvis 3

Yellow cards: Short (21, Northampton), Volley (21, Harlequins), Fox (53, Northampton)

Northampton Saints: 15 Bruce Reihana (c), 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Robbie Kydd, 12 David Quinlan, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Carlos Spencer, 9 Mark Robinson, 8 Paul Tupai, 7 Darren Fox, 6 Alex Rae, 5 Christian Short, 4 Damien Browne, 3 Pat Barnard, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Tom Smith

Replacements: 16 Matias Cortese, 17 Soane Tonga'uiha, 18 Matt Lord, 19 Ben Lewitt, 20 Johnny Howard, 21 Stephen Myler, 22 Matthieu Bourret

NEC Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 David Strettle, 13 Mel Deane, 12 Stuart Abbott, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Adrian Jarvis, 8 Nick Easter, 9 Andy Gomarsall, 7 Paul Volley (c), 6 Andre Vos, 5 Nicolas Spanghero, 4 Ollie Kohn, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Tani Fuga, 1 Aston Croall

Replacements: 16 Jimmy Richards, 17 Ricky Nebbett, 18 Jim Evans, 19 Chris Hala'Ufia, 20 Steve So'oialo, 21 Tom Williams, 22 Hal Luscombe

Referee: Dave Pearson

Touch judges: Peter Huckle, Don Helme

Coach: Clive Leeke

Television match official: Andfrew Turner

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