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Sunday, 7 February 2016

Saints whip up a storm as Harlequins lose in the 83rd minute

An anxious fan base arrived at the Twickenham Stoop on a cold, damp and blustery Saturday afternoon.

Since the news of Conor O'Shea's intended departure from Harlequins at the end of the season, the home side have failed to win in any competition.

Today, with key players absent due to international duty, a win would be hard to come by.

The windy conditions looked likely to effect the game-plan with high balls unlikely.

The visitors, Northampton Saints, got proceedings underway and made strides along the right wing. Within the first couple of minutes Northampton had crossed the whitewash however a visit to the TMO (Television Match Official) ruled the ball had been held up. The good defensive work from the home side was tested again as Saints were awarded the put-in at the scrum just metres out.

The visitors sent the ball from one wing to the other before being bundled into touch. The referee, however, bought play back for a penalty against the hosts and fly-half Myler lined up the posts giving the visitors an early lead: Harlequins 0 – 3 Northampton Saints after 5 minutes.

Evans restarted the game and with the wind playing it's part Northampton Saints knocked-on whilst trying to gather the high-ball. A scrum was awarded to Harlequins. The ball was slow coming out to scrum-half Tebaldi however the number 9 passed quickly, allowing Hopper to cross the game line. Sinckler powered on before Merrick scrambled over the try-line. Evans added the conversion and Quins took the lead: Harlequins 7 – 3 Northampton Saints in the 9th minute.

Saints sent the restart high allowing Horwill to position himself for the catch. Quins, however, infringed in the breakdown allowing Northampton the chance to put more points on the board. On this occasion Myler's boot was off target sending the ball hurtling towards the left post. Yarde was alert and gathered the rebound.

The home side were awarded a penalty however with the wind against them, Evans sliced a kick into the waiting opposition. Saints used opportunity and speed to break through; the Quins defence was attempting to keep the visitors pinned down with tackles being made deep in the opposition half. This, however, left gaps in the home side defence with Burrell offloading to Day who scored under the posts. It was converted and Northampton regained the lead: Harlequins 7 – 10 Northampton Saints after just 14 minutes.

Evans kicked a long ball on the restart and Saints returned it, sending it into touch. Quins were successful in the line-out and recycled well with Sloan passing to Hopper, reaching the opposition 22. The ball was intercepted and Saints earned a penalty which they kicked for a line-out on the half-way line.

A penalty then went against the home side for pulling down the maul which had formed. Saints were working their way up the pitch through the penalties being awarded to them. They kicked for a line-out inside the host's 22. Saints were certainly dictating play at that time; Dickson passed to Myler who offloaded to Foden. In an uncharacteristic bit of play the fall-back made a loose pass forcing a knock-on. Scrum to Quins in their own 22. Sinckler received treatment and was soon back on his feet to participate in the set piece. The scrum was then upgraded to a penalty to the home side.

Evans kicked but in that wind it barely made any distance and went into touch early. Quins secured line-out ball and box-kicked out however it seemed to hang in the air allowing Saints to position themselves for the catch. A thumping tackle from Merrick got the fans in the stadium ebbing the teams on. Saints opted to kick and Quins gathered for attack. The hosts gained advantage at the breakdown and their resulting penalty kick into touch gave them an attacking line-out in the visitors half.

Quins secured the line-out and the forwards made steady progress with a grab-and-drive up the field. Sinckler used his build to full effect, fending off tackles. Saints stole possession but knocked-on. The home side broke through with Horwill before the ball was sent to the wing allowing Chisholm to cross for a try. Evans again added the extra two points bringing Quins into the lead once again: Harlequins 14 – 10 Northampton Saints after a quarter of the game.

Yarde gathered the restart well for the hosts and they were awarded a scrum in their own 22. Saints stole possession, earned a penalty and opted for territory instead of the posts – maybe it was concern surrounding the potential impact of the wind or they believed they had found a weakness in the Quins' defence.

The hosts did themselves proud whilst the visitors were penalised for holding on. Quins opted to take it quickly and Yarde made good progress, passing to Tebaldi who offloaded quickly, preparing to receive a thumping tackle. Chisholm, however, was unable to gather the ball and knocked-on. After treatment Tebaldi was back on his feet.

Following a successful scrum Saints powered though the Quins' defence and Burrell scored a try in the right-hand corner. It was a difficult conversion however Myler added the extra two points and Saints retook the lead: Harlequins 14 - 17 Northampton Saints after 33 minutes.

The restart was long and Saints returned it, kicking into touch. Lambert issued Buchanan the line-out orders and Quins executed the plan successfully. Play was taken to the left wing and advantage was given to the home side after Easter was tackled and the opposition slowed the release of the ball from the ruck.

Evans kicked for a line-out but again the wind forced the ball into touch short. Although the hosts were successful in the set piece, a scrum was awarded to the visitors. Quins were penalised for standing up in the scrum but won the resulting line-out.

Hopper broke through the game line. Yarde's pace helped him to carve up the defence down the right. They made it into the opposition 22 before being penalised. Play returned to the host's half through the boot of Myler. Saints were successful in the line-out and Tebaldi was shown a yellow for Harlequins having knocked-on whilst attempting to intercept.

The visitors gained more territory as they kicked for another attacking line-out in the 22. Quins stole possession and kicked into touch to end the first half.

Half Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 14 – 17 Northampton Saints

Replacements were made at half time for Harlequins with Gray replacing Bucanhan.

The hosts got the second half under way and earned a scrum with the fly-half taking over scrum-half duties as Tebaldi was still in the sin-bin. An infringement at the scrum was upgraded to a penalty.

After a couple of plays the Saints earned a scrum of their own in their 22 however a penalty went the way of Quins after the visitors were deemed to have collapsed the scrum. Evans lined up the posts and levelled the scores after 44 minutes: Harlequins 17 - 17 Northampton Saints.

The restart travelled the required distance and Evans returned the ball, kicking long, aided by the wind. Saints then chose to run from deep but the hosts earned a scrum on the half-way line. The ball was fed well and after competition it emerged out on the Quins' side.

A penalty was awarded to the hosts after the Saints failed to roll away. Evans, the wind now working with him, kicked for an attacking line-out in the opposition 22.

The hosts secured line-out ball but Saints were aggressive and pushed the maul back. Quins were forced to send the ball wide and earned themselves a penalty after a failed interception attempt. Unlike Tebaldi, however, the offending Saints player was not shown a card. Fans at this point raised their voices calling for the usual villain of The Stoop, referee Wayne Barnes, to take over.

Tempers calmed and Evans added 3 points to the scoreboard: Harlequins 20 – 17 Northampton Saints after 50 minutes.

An aerial battle ensued before the visitors ran along the right wing. Tebaldi returned to the field having served his 10 minutes in the sin-bin, just in time for a Quins' line-out in their own half.

They secured the ball and Tebaldi box-kicked into opposition territory. The hosts forced Saints to back track into their own 22 and then stole possession, spurring on the fans with “Harlequins” resonating around the stadium.

The forwards opted to grab-and-drive but Saints got turnover ball and kicked to safety. They only made it as far as Chisholm who ran and passed the ball. Quins crossed the whitewash but spilled the ball whilst doing so.

A scrum was awarded to the visitors just shy of their own try line. The opposition came away with the ball and the hosts were penalised further for not rolling away.

The visitors kicked for a line-out but did not get out of their own half, themselves now fighting the wind. Saints secured line-out ball and earned a penalty which they took quickly and advanced into the Quins' half. They kicked and Chisholm gathered, passing to Hopper who chipped through the defence forcing a race for the line. Saints reached the ball first and touched down for a 22 drop out.

The opposition kicked long but Chisholm gathered it well. Quins attempted to keep ball in hand but a long pass was knocked-on. More replacements for the hosts as Luamanu came off for Ward after 60 minutes.

A scrum was awarded to Northampton just inside the Quins' half. They retrieved the ball well and sent it out to the wing. The hosts were penalised for being offside. Saints took it quickly but were themselves penalised for holding on.

Quins Captain Evans was replaced by Botica in the 63rd minute.

The line-out from Gray was thrown short and in an interesting turn of events the ball bounced off Saints into the welcoming arms of Quins. Their possession was short-lived, however, after the home side lost the ball in the Saints' 22.

The ensuing line-out was taken well by Quins who earned a penalty. Botica kicked to the corner for an attacking line-out . The hosts formed a maul and drove forward. Advantage was being played when the maul was brought down and a yellow card shown to Saints' no 7 Wood with 13 minutes left on the clock. A yellow card; a penalty just inches from the try-line but no penalty try awarded.

Quins kicked for another line-out and formed another maul however Saints earned a scrum. Easter at this point required treatment and strapping to his right ankle.

Saints secured the ball and box-kicked out. Chisholm gathered but was penalised for holding on. The visitors took a quick penalty and worked their way into the host's 22. Another penalty went against the home side and Saints opted for the corner. Harlequins gave away yet another penalty allowing Northampton to level the scores with 8 minutes left: Harlequins 20 – 20 Northampton Saints.

More replacements for the home side as Swiel came on for Chisholm and Collier for Sinckler. Botica sent the restart long and Saints opted to run it out from deep. Quins earned a penalty and the replacement fly-half kicked for the sticks, pulling the home side ahead with 6 minutes left: Harlequins 23 – 20 Northampton Saints.

Followng the restart, Quins ran with the ball in hand. The ball was knocked into touch by Saints for a home throw. Tempers started to flare as the line-out was brought down handing a penalty to Quins but still no yellow card shown.

The hosts kicked to touch just inside the Saints half. They lost the ball as Wood rejoined the visitors following 10 minutes on the sidelines. The visitors ran up the left wing but a tackle by Yarde and Botica sent the ball spilling into touch for a Quins' line-out just inside their own 22.

The hosts earned a scrum with just over 2 minutes remaining.

The ball was sent out to Yarde and the team opted to grab-and-drive in an attempt to retain possession and run down the clock. A penalty was, however, awarded to Saints who kicked to the corner, sensing a win rather than a draw with less a minute left. They secured line-out ball and formed a maul pushing for the try-line.

The home side's defence held strong and a scrum was award to Quins with just 7 seconds left.

Botica received the ball from the scrum and only needed to get the ball out of play to secure Harlequins a hard fought victory. Instead, presumably misjudging the strength of the weather conditions, he failed to find touch, kicking in a direction where the wind kept the ball in play. Foden crossed the whitewash for the winning try for Northampton Saints.

The conversion was added as a stunned Twickenham Stoop looked on.

A win for the visitors was always a possibility – Harlequins have not beaten them since 2013 – however the manner of the win was never foreseen. Harlequins tasted their first home defeat of the season and it was so nearly a victory.

Full Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 23 – 27 Northampton Saints

Harlequins Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea spoke with Radio Jackie's Natalie Osborne following the shock defeat:
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 12:38 am  

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