Premiership: Harlequins 35-29 Northampton Saints – Jack Musk brace helps Quins to bonus-point win
Harlequins (21) 35
Tries: Musk 2, Anyanwu, Northmore, Murley Cons: Smith 5
Northampton Saints (10) 29
Tries: Ludlam, Freeman, Furbank, James Cons: Biggar 3 Pen: Biggar
Harlequins survived a late fightback to beat an error-prone Northampton Saints at Twickenham Stoop.
Jack Musk, Lennox Anyanwu and Luke Northmore eased Quins into a 21-3 lead before Lewis Ludlam’s try pulled Saints back to 21-10 at half-time.
Musk crossed again with Saints’ Lukhan Salakaia-Loto in the sin-bin, but Tommy Freeman’s try kept them in it.
Cadan Murley took the hosts clear at 35-15 before tries from George Furbank and Tom James set up a tense finale.
The 2020-21 champions were not at their electric best in earning a second Premiership win of the season, while Northampton will be kicking themselves after a third league defeat from four matches.
Saints seemed to be suffering a hangover from their dramatic late collapse against rivals Leicester and their downfall was largely self-inflicted in a sloppy first half.
Quins found themselves 14-0 up inside seven minutes, Musk easily driven over after a simple catch and drive before Fraser Dingwall’s handling error allowed Anyanwu to stroll in.
The visitors improved and got some reward for their pressure through a Dan Biggar penalty, only to be set back by another soft try, Northmore slicing through unchallenged.
Northampton created enough chances to match those three soft tries – and more – but took just one when Ludlam crossed for his first score of the season.
Joe Marchant’s try-saving tackle denied Alex Mitchell after Saints found themselves with a two-on-one, and Emmanuel Iyogun knocked on as the forwards hammered away at the Quins line.
Musk then put a last-gasp tackle on Angus Scott-Young as the loose forward looked certain to finish a fast break, and Mitchell was then bundled into touch before he could supply a scoring pass.
Saints lost three players to yellow cards late on against the Tigers and saw another early in the second half for Salakaia-Loto’s high tackle on Will Evans.
Quins cashed in when Musk earned a second try from a line-out catch and drive, but Freeman walked over in the corner to keep Saints in the hunt at 28-15 going into the final quarter.
England fly-half Marcus Smith was perfect off the tee, making all five conversions, and his try-saving hit forced lock Alex Coles to spill the ball over the line, before the TMO ruled out a Ludlam score for a double movement.
And when Murley evaded more weak tackles down the touchline to finish well, Quins finally looked out of reach.
But Furbank ran a super line onto James’ pass to cross, and when James sniped over from the back of a maul and Biggar added his third conversion, Northampton were back within a score with five minutes left.
Yet typifying a day of frustration, more impressive defending from the hosts in their own 22 saw Saints fall short.
Harlequins head coach Tabai Matson:
“There are not many finishers like him (Cadan Murley) in the league and we’ve already recommended him to Eddie Jones but we haven’t heard anything back.
“We knew it would be tough and it certainly was, but it was amazing to get a victory as they butchered a few scores.
“It was a really good spectacle for the neutral, but the most pleasing aspect for me was the five minutes of defence at the end as it takes a lot of discipline not to give penalties away in that situation.”
Northampton Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson told BBC Radio Northampton:
“It was certainly a game we could have won. We started poorly and we offer up a 14-0 advantage by doing things we haven’t trained or practiced so the coaches will have to take a look at how we can do better coming out of the gates.
“From then on we created so many opportunities and didn’t convert them. We didn’t look after the ball well enough today and probably tried to do things before we’d earned the right to do them.
“It’s scant consolation when you’re not converting them (chances), but there’s not a huge amount wrong with our game. We’ve got to make sure we’re better at that and we don’t switch off and give points away.”
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Harlequins: Marler (c), Musk, Louw, Lamb, Herbst, Kenningham, Evans, White, Care, Smith, Murley, Anyanwu, Northmore, Marchant, Green.
Replacements: Riley, Garcia Botta, Kerrod, Hammond, Jurevicius, Gjaltema, Allan, David.
Northampton Saints: Furbank, Freeman, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Collins, Biggar, Mitchell, Iyogun, Matavesi, Petch, Salakaia-Loto, Coles, Scott-Young, Ludlam (c), Augustus.
Replacements: Haywood, Heffernan, Hill, Moon, Graham, James, Proctor, Sleightholme.
Sin-bin: Salakaia-Loto (43).
Referee: Christophe Ridley