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Saturday, 4 May 2013

Harlequins victorious in a nail biting match at the Twickenham Stoop

A cautious atmosphere at the Twickenham Stoop. Harlequins and Northampton Saints have both qualified for the play-offs. Today was a fight for advantage in the knock-out stage.

There was a good level of support from the home fans which erupted when the Saints' kick-off went straight into touch handing a scrum to Quins.

The home side were penalised allowing Saints to kick long, earning a line-out. It was well taken by the visitors but Quins were able to turnover the ball. A scrum to the home side who in a slow but steady way progressed up the field.

Following a successful line-out, Quins chipped through for a chase to the try line - a race which Saints won allowing them to kick to safety.

There was concern etched on the home supporter's faces as number 10 Nick Evans was injured early on, his replacement Botica warming up on the sideline just after 8 minutes of play. Evans, however, was able to stay on the field.

A knock-on by Quins handed possession to Saints. The visitors attempted to pass quickly allowing Quins to steal the ball during a lapse in concentration. Quins earned themselves a penalty which Evans successfully kicked. An early 3 point lead to the home side 12 minutes into the game.

The restart just about covered the minimum distance but it was Quins who took possession. They earned a line-out in the Saints half but it came to nothing as Saints were strong in their tackles. At this point there was very little supporting play by the home side.

After sending the ball back into Quins' territory, the visitors lost the line-out and Quins earned the subsequent put-in at the scrum. However their scrum was not as dominant as previous weeks and Saints were able to send play back into Quins' 22.

The home side played with a lot of spirit and pushed the Saints back, Danny Care intercepting. Strong tackling from the visitors forced Quins to kick. Although possession was handed back to Saints it was only momentary. They opted to kick, but it was too heavy and went dead.

The Quins' scrum performed well on the Saints' 10 metre line. Care chipped the ball long and Williams won the foot race to score a try in the 23rd minute. Evans converted and they now had 10 points on the board without reply.

Saints sent the restart long and were penalised for not releasing the tackled player. This allowed Quins to kick into the opposition's territory for a line-out. This was a wasted opportunity as the ball was knocked-on. Saints now had an attacking platform.

They passed the ball wide for Saints' no. 14 Pisi to cross for a try but it was disallowed after the Television Match Official (TMO) ruled on obstruction.

This scare seemed to motivate Quins who pushed on up the field until a penalty in the ruck gave Saints a line-out. They made the most of opportunities created and crossed for a try which went unconverted.

Saints once again pushed hard but Quins stole possession and Mike Brown kicked for a 2-man chase. The visitors once again won the race and play was sent back into Quins' half. Nobody could fault the work ethic of either side. Saints earned a penalty kick but their no. 10 Myler pulled it right of the posts.

Miscommunication by the visitors in the restart allowed Quins to grab the ball. However they made up for it in their tackling which slowed play and reduced offloads. Saints stole the ball but Evans reclaimed it, sending it along the touch line. He was tackled after kicking the ball but it was deemed the tackler was committed and was therefore unable to prevent the late contact. The ball went dead handing play back to Saints.

Quins were forced to make a try-saving tackle at the other end of the field. A line-out to Quins who kept possession and were then gifted another line-out towards the half-way line after the visitors were penalised for not releasing. The ball was thrown, collected and kicked out of play to end the first half.

Half Time: Harlequins 10 - 5 Northampton Saints

Quins started strongly in the second half, restarting the match and earning a line-out on Saints' 22m line. They drove on and after a quick referral to the TMO, the referee confirmed a try for Buchanan. Evans added the conversion within 2 minutes of second-half play.

After the ball was kicked back and forth, play settled with Quins applying pressure, earning a penalty. On this occasion Evans sent it wide.

Play returned to the Saints' 22m line. Quins retained possession following a line-out and quick passing allowed Care to break through the defence, passing wide for Casson to cross for a try in the 50th minute. Evans once again missed the conversion.

Harlequins were now 22 - 5 up on Northampton Saints.

The restart handed Quins' a scrum but Saints were dominant. They earned a penalty and opted for a line-out. The Saints kept possession and formed a maul. It was an effective tactic as Quins had no response. The visitors scored their second try of the game, this time converting it.

The Saints had the wind in their sails and once again pushed up the field. The home side were being called upon to put in some hard tackles, which they performed well, Evans eventually clearing their lines.

Calls of 'wake up, Quins' emerged from the stands as Saints again pushed up the field and Day darted over for a converted try. 12 minutes of the match left and Saints had pulled within 3 points of the home side.

There were changes for both teams, with Botica coming on for Evans. He made an immediate impact, taking on the defence head on. Saints were penalised for not releasing him and Botica opted for an ambitious shot at the posts from the half-way line. It came close but margins are what makes and breaks games. It was both short and wide.

Saints again dominated play and when Quins had possession they lacked innovation, passing to players who were standing still. By the time they got moving Saints were already upon them.

A knock-on from the visitors handed Quins a scrum. The visitors were penalised further and Botica kicked for a line-out half way. Great work from Quins saw them push within 5 metres of the try line. However Saints stole the ball and took it into touch. Seeing an opportunity Quins took a quick line-out but fumbled the ball. Cries of 'it would have been easier to score' echoed from the stands as Saints had the put-in at the scrum.

It did not take long for the fans to get behind their team again. There was spectacular play of long balls and high balls culminating in a penalty to Quins. Botica placed the ball well for a line-out in the opposition's 22. The atmosphere was electric.

Robson secured the ball and a maul was formed. It did not progress far and solid defence from the Saints forced Quins to pass wide, at which point the visitors stole the ball and cleared. Quins played sensibly, throwing the ball the minimum distance to retain possession.

The home side earned another penalty but Botica kicked to the corner for a line-out instead of taking the 3 points between the posts. Quins kept possession, formed a maul but it collapsed allowing Saints to steal the ball. Some quick reactions saw the visitors bustled into touch.

Another short throw ensured Quins retained the ball but Saints would not give up and forced a knock-on from the home side.

This was a dangerous scrum but in the end a forward pass brought the final whistle and an end to a nail biting match.

Harlequins will now face Leicester Tigers away next weekend in the play-off.

Full Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 22 - 19 Northampton Saints
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 11:00 pm  

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