The Cornishman Ben Gollings dealt Northampton's treble hopes a harsh blow at The Stoop last night. The diminutive Gollings upstaged Big Ben Cohen on the Saints left wing as he ran in two tries to give Quins needed points in the Allied Dunbar Premiership.
Northampton, in the semi-finals of the Heineken Cup and the final of the Tetley's Bitter Cup, are stuck in third, four points behind the leaders, Leicester, and two adrift of Bath. Gollings's tries rescued a game that had begun badly. Quins had been as static in the first half as they were electric in the second. And Saints were not much better.
The kicking out of hand was appalling and the fly-halves, Quins' John Liley and Saints' Ali Hepher, wisely decided not to try kicking for goal after a couple of sad efforts, although Hepher attempted a third penalty on the interval. That missed as well. The set-pieces were not much better and if the errors abounded, so did the penalties.
When Harlequins scored their try, Adam Leach being propelled over from a line-out it caught everyone by surprise. Needless to say Liley failed with the conversion. Thankfully, there was an upturn in the second half. First David Officer was put over by a smart Sanderson flick in the 44th minute and then the full-back Gollings was sent in by Brendon Daniel, Liley converting both.
Minutes later the 19-year-old Gollings brought a modest crowd to its feet when he took a pass from Liley, dummied outside, then went himself. His speed left Saints standing. Liley knocked over the conversion.
Northampton did hit back through the flanker Colin Allan, the full-back Nick Beal and the replacement hooker Freddie Mendez - even Paul Grayson missed two of the conversions - but Saints fired too late.
Harlequins: Tries Leach, Officer, Gollings 2; Conversions Liley 3; Penalty Liley. Northampton: Tries C Allan, Beal, Mendez; Conversion Grayson.
Harlequins: B Gollings; J Keyter, D Officer, N Greenstock, B Daniel; R Liley, P Richards; D Barnes, C Ridgway, J Leonard, G Llewellyn (capt), G Morgan (R Jenkins, 74), S White-Cooper, P Sanderson, A Leach (J Evans, 79).
Northampton: N Beal; J Sleightholme (J Bramhall, 72), A Northey (M Tucker, 58), M Allen (P Grayson, 41), B Cohen; A Hepher, D Malone; M Volland (G Pagel, 53), S Walter (F Mendez, 53), M Scelzo, R Metcalfe (A Newman, 53), J Phillips, C Allan, P Lam (capt), S Holmes.
Referee: A Rowden (Thatcham).
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