Foden try ruled out as Saints stumble again

Northampton Saints 9 Harlequins 18: Mallinder fury as official calls forward pass but will not rewind to check

franklin's gardens

It was about as clean and precise as a bout of mud wrestling, but Harlequins had enough class in crucial areas to inflict on Northampton their fourth defeat in five home matches. A tactically absorbing battle might have taken a different course if Saints had been allowed a second-half "try" by Ben Foden that was pulled back for a forward pass in the build-up.

Not for the first time this season there was a row over video replays – the lack of use of one, rather than any disagreement over what it showed – as Jim Mallinder, the Northampton director of rugby, described referee Wayne Barnes's decision to halt play on the advice of his assistant as "ridiculous". Others might say Barnes was quite right to call what he saw rather than wait to hit the rewind button.

"Why have the technology like that and not use it?" asked Mallinder, referring to the trial regulation that allows the run-up to a try to be reviewed as long as play has not stopped. Foden had caught George Pisi's flipped pass in the 22nd minute and weaved to the line only to see Barnes, stationed 30 metres back down the field, indicating there had been a forward pass in what was an extremely tight call.

So instead of a five- or seven-point lead for Saints, the scoreline stayed at 3-3, and it had moved on only to 6-3 to Quins by the 55th minute, at which time the visitors' impressive tighthead prop James Johnston went to the sin-bin for a blatant flop on the wrong side of a ruck. Those of a multi-coloured persuasion might have recalled a win here on New Year's Day 2011, when they were down to 13 men for a while.

There must have been similarly deep satisfaction among the reigning champions that they gradually pulled clear this time. Though initially pegged back to 6-6 by Steve Myler's second penalty on 57 minutes, Harlequins rallied to lead by six points while still down to 14 men.

All the Quins' scores came from the fly-half Nick Evans's boot: the All Black had two penalties in the first half and two more in the final 10 minutes, either side of one by Myler's replacement Ryan Lamb. But Evans for once was a comparatively peripheral figure. For every piece of possession spilled in contact – and they must have been in double figures – there was a committed tackler, and Quins, led by Chris Robshaw, had plenty of those.

They also had Mike Brown enjoying himself at full-back – not the wing position he occupied for England during the autumn, when Saracens' Alex Goode had the No 15 jersey – with raking positional kicks and one outstanding defensive catch of a Myler cross-kick that launched a rousing 70-metre run-and-hack gallop by Nick Easter via Robshaw's smart inside pass.

Mallinder's counterpart, Conor O'Shea, praised the "top-notch performance levels" throughout his team and said he had met England coaches Stuart Lancaster and Andy Farrell together with Brown a week ago to discuss the full-back – or is he a wing? "Mike wants to play at full-back for England," said O'Shea, "though he will play anywhere to be in the team. My selection would be different."

So Harlequins will spend a happy Christmas positioned at the top of the Premiership and expecting Boxing Day to see them sell the last of the 81,600 tickets for Saturday's Big Game against London Irish at Twickenham. The mood at Northampton is difficult to judge. Near silence greeted the final whistle, as the home support digested the continuing run on this ground of losses since October to Saracens in the league, Harlequins in the LV Cup and now the league, and Ulster in the Heineken Cup, much as they cheered last week's win in Belfast that kept Saints alive in Europe. "We have won three out of our last five so we're getting something right," said Mallinder. "We won't lie down, we'll go to Saracens next week and show the reaction we did last week. We have just come up against two of the best sides in Europe." Doubtless there are Saints devotees who would like to think of their own team in that bracket but this loss pushed Northampton out of the Premiership's top four, in the absence of their suspended captain Dylan Hartley, even if they were tipped by O'Shea to recover and reach the play-offs. There were a lot of mauls – if it hadn't been for the use-it-or-lose-it law, the ball might have been out of sight all afternoon – and lost line-outs, for which disruptive defence should take some credit.

Northampton kicked two penalties to touch in the first half rather than take long pots at goal but secured no points. Another regret to be lingered over was the extension of Quins' Indian sign over them to one loss in six meetings.

Northampton Saints B Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, T May (D Waldouck, 57), J Elliott; S Myler (R Lamb, 72), L Dickson (M Roberts, 72); S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 63), M Haywood, P Doran Jones (B Mujati, 52), S Manoa, C Lawes (M Sorenson, 69), P Dowson (capt), GJ van Velze, T Wood.

Harlequins M Brown; T Williams, M Hopper, T Casson, U Monye; N Evans, D Care; J Marler (M Lambert, 67), J Gray, J Johnston, O Kohn, G Robson, M Fa'asavalu (W Collier, 60-67; T Guest, 67), N Easter, C Robshaw (capt).

Referee W Barnes (London).

Northampton Saints

Pens: Myler 2, Lamb

Harlequins

Pens: Evans 6

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable