Mallinder's Saints stoop to conquer

Harlequins 16 Northampton 20: Quins create chances but determined defence seals a precious away win

We will have to wait and see the merit in Conor O'Shea's confident assertion that there was enough of a moral victory in this defeat to guarantee better results over the course of a long season. The Harlequins director of rugby rightly said his side had created "shedloads of chances", but Northampton had prepared in the knowledge that "mental softness", as their coach, Jim Mallinder, put it, had cost them victory on their last two visits. Indeed, Saints had been beaten in their three matches against Quins at The Stoop since 2004, so the trio of escape acts they perpetrated in the final six minutes to seal the win yesterday were all the sweeter.

Quins had trailed 13-0 just before half-time, then led 16-13 when the centre George Lowe scored a try at the posts, created with rare artistry by the scrum-half Danny Care and the replacement No 8, Tom Guest, in the 55th minute. With 74 minutes gone they were 20-16 down, having seen the Northampton flanker Tom Wood – a star on the rise since his summer move from Worcester – charge across the gain line to set up a try for Dylan Hartley that was converted by Shane Geraghty. Then Northampton conceded a penalty for not releasing. Quins went for touch and Matt Cairns overthrew Nick Easter at the front of the line-out.

Two more penalties to Quins as they continued to attack led to a scrum 10 metres from the Northampton line with 55 seconds remaining on the clock. At length, Tom Williams brushed past a tackle from Joe Ansbro, who had only just appeared as a replacement, and the Quins prop Joe Marler was held up at the corner. The clock showed zero. Care made one last attempt at a break and might very well have made it but Chris Ashton, his England team-mate on the Northampton wing, got enough of a tackle in to dislodge the ball. Ashton was offering his smiling condolences even before the final whistle went; Care, not surprisingly, took a few seconds to acknowledge them.

"We'll put some teams to the sword if we play like that," O'Shea said, though his side are winless after the opening draw with Wasps. He also regretted that Northampton had defended "two yards off the line" when Care knocked on midway through the first half, trying a tap-and-go from very short range. Two penalties by Geraghty either side of a miss by the Saints fly-half and one from his Quins counterpart, Nick Evans, had Northampton 6-0 up. In the 37th minute a tackle forced Quins' Mike Brown to spill an intended pass, James Downey hacked on and Ashton ran at top speed and sidefooted the ball with control to score. The try was converted by Geraghty.

Evans kicked a penalty in first-half injury time, which was for a collapsed maul, and two more in the first 10 minutes of the second half before he converted Lowe's try. On one occasion Hartley was penalised for going in at the side when counterattacking a ruck. On another, Quins' Will Skinner fell foul of the reinforced interpretation that obliges players to retreat and wait until a team-mate who has kicked the ball has played them onside. "That's Law 11.1(a)," a supporter in the East Stand very nearly commented.

Yes, it's official: the referees are smiling again. The poor loves do have feelings, you know, and fed up in the first half of last season with whistling oodles of penalties against the attacking side, they were influential in steering the Premiership towards the February meeting which changed several interpretations, and on to the International Rugby Board's 10 directives that were issued in May.

It would be snazzier if they were 10 commandments, although of course against the party line of all the chaps being in this together which administrators and coaches are sticking to – at least until the whistle blows against one side too often and it falls apart. We will see how long the entente lasts; perhaps until the autumn when the All Blacks arrive and run all over the home unions? The referee here, Andrew Small, avoided showing any yellow cards, having awarded four in the Saracens v London Irish match the previous week, even though O'Shea conceded that his side might have deserved one in the first half and asserted that Northampton, who began well on top in the scrum, "should have been down to 14 men at the end".

Geraghty had a couple of shaky incidents: a kick that went dead when he had time to judge it and a clump of a shot at goal which hit a post after 52 minutes. He also weighted another kick nicely to hit touch and played well in tight corners. It was that kind of match; good and bad for both teams. But Northampton are the ones with two wins out of two.



Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, G Lowe, J Turner-Hall, U Monye; N Evans, D Care; C Jones (J Marler, 44), C Brooker (M Cairns, 44), M Lambert (J Johnston, 44), O Kohn (T Guest, 50), T Vallejos (P Browne, 76), C Robshaw (capt), N Easter, W Skinner.

Northampton Saints: B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke (J Ansbro, 79), J Downey, B Reihana; S Geraghty, L Dickson; S Tonga'uiha (R Dreyer, 76), D Hartley (capt; B Sharman, 72), B Mujati (E Murray, 63), C Lawes (C Clark, 72), C Day, P Dowson (M Easter, 63), R Wilson, T Wood.

Referee: A Small (London).

Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
life
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
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

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower