Tim Visser and Danny Care score twice as seven-try Harlequins rout Northampton Saints at Twickenham

Harlequins 50 Northampton Saints 21: The gloom around Saints deepened as they were thrashed in west London by a rampant Quins performance 

Jamie Roberts, left, and Tim Visser celebrate Quins' win
Jamie Roberts, left, and Tim Visser celebrate Quins' win

Danny Care and Tim Visser led the way with two tries apiece as Harlequins deepened the gloom surrounding Northampton Saints with a comprehensive hammering in front of a crowd of more than 77,000 for ‘Big Game 10’ at Twickenham.

It was Northampton’s second 50-point hammering at England’s national rugby stadium this season after they were similarly shredded by Saracens here, 55-24, on the opening day.

And whatever it is the Saints are expecting their incoming technical consultant Alan Gaffney to contribute when he starts work on Monday, it needs to take an effect very rapidly, as the 2014 league champions were a sad rabble in the first half.

When the Saints’ captain and England skipper Dylan Hartley was easily brushed off by Care for the scrum-half to score at the posts with 30 minutes played, it brought up a remarkably simple and quickfire bonus point for Quins.

The fireworks were out at Twickenham (Getty)

But this was nothing new for Northampton, as they have been carved open in embarrassing fashion several times in recent months, including by Saracens and Ospreys at Franklin’s Gardens in the European Cup.

Those losses contributed to the sacking of Jim Mallnder as director of rugby a couple of weeks ago, and while a permanent replacement is sought, the 71-year-old Gaffney has a huge job on his hands restoring confidence, morale and a positive attitude.

The arrival of Springbok flanker Heinrich Brussow, expected for some time in January, may help.

“We have got to stick together, that’s all we can do,” said interim head coach Alan Dickens. “If we get a win I’m sure we’ll kick on.”

But this was a shocking performance to set in front of the Premiership’s first-ever live match broadcast in terrestrial television, and Northampton are winless in the league and Europe since they defeated Harlequins at the end of September.

Quins were perfectly happy to grab a golden chance to return to winning ways after they had dropped out of Europe with two rounds to go, and lost by a point at Newcastle in the league last week.

Care and Marcus Smith enjoyed themselves directing mostly one-way traffic, and the young fly-half Smith did his defensive bit too with a piledriving tackle on Luther Burrell during a rare Northampton attack.

At the other end of Twickenham – where just over three years ago, an extra-time try had won the Premiership final for Saints against Saracens – Quins ran amok.

George Merrick wins a lineout under pressure (Getty)

Hooker and captain Dave Ward strolled round Saints’ full-back Harry Mallinder for the opening try after 10 minutes, Smith converted that and added a penalty, then Smith’s clever chip and chase paved the way for Charlie Walker to canter over, as Northampton appeared to hesitate over a non-existent offence.

Smith converted for 17-0 and did so again in the 21st minute when a counter-attack comfortably orchestrated by Care and Smith found Tim Visser in an ocean of space on the left wing.

George North made his comeback from injury as a replacement for Ahsee Tuala but the eminent Welshman who is returning to his homeland next summer was limping after making his first run and rarely got up a full gallop.

The team’s proximity at ninth and 10th places in the Premiership at start of play looked an utter illusion as Quins moved to 36-0 with Visser’s second try from Smith lovely looped pass two minutes into the second half.

Northampton belatedly livened up as Rob Horne and Nic Groom grabbed tries from close range, while Quins flanker James Chisholm was in the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.

Steve Myler converted both, having come on for Piers Francis after the England squad fly-half was forced off by a clash of heads with Jamie Roberts.

Harlequins break towards the corner (Getty)

Quins’ second win in 11 meetings with Saints in all competitions was assured when Ben Foden got trapped in defence and a turnover put Care in for his second score, converted by Smith.

Kyle Sinckler had a couple of trademark rumbles for Harlequins but the harsh truth was the nominal home team did not need heavy-duty carriers to make it past Saints’ mostly lacklustre defence.

Mat Luamanu’s try, with Smith adding the extras, brought up the half century, and although Mikey Haywood had the last word for Saints with a forwards’ try, the try bonus as well as any sense of restored respect remained beyond their grasp.

Quins’ director of rugby John Kingston said of Smith, who was being watched in person by England head coach Eddie Jones: “He’s a good player, isn’t he. He seems ot like the big occasion, and was controlling and organising everything. He’s a special talent but let’s take it one step at a time.

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