Friday the 13th is no nightmare for Saints

GREEN MACHINE - action from Saints' win over Harlequins (Picture: Linda Dawson)

GREEN MACHINE - action from Saints' win over Harlequins (Picture: Linda Dawson)

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James Wilson’s superb score ended Saints’ barren run at The Stoop as they beat Harlequins 13-6 on Friday night.

The Kiwi utility back’s clever thinking lit up a game played in soggy conditions as he gave his side a lead that saw them win at Quins for the first time since September, 2010.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Stephen Myler added eight points and even the fly-half’s late sin-binning wasn’t enough to stop Saints staying on top of the Aviva Premiership table.

Quins’ showing left their fans with a sour taste as the home team could only reply with Nick Evans’ six points and also had Nick Easter sin-binned.

Evans had a shocker in front of the posts, missing four kicks, while his replacement, Ben Botica, also missed a penalty to give Saints the chance to claim a big win.

And win they did to leave their fans toasting a second success in as many games at the start of what is shaping up to be a big season for the green, black and gold.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

The success was made even more impressive by the pitch on which it was played as a torrential downpour ensured it would be a night of spills, if not thrills.

Ken Pisi was the first to get a slide in as he covered well to stop Mike Brown’s menacing charge.

Quins were clearly keen to make early inroads and were squeezing a plethora of penalties out of the opponents.

Evans missed an early chance to put his side ahead, scuffing a tee kick wide, and Saints soon had some respite as Myler booted them into a great position in the corner.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

One huge scrum drive later and the men in lime green had a chance to make an early mark on the scoreboard, Myler landing an easy penalty in front of the posts.

Saints were still struggling with their discipline in the slippy conditions, but Evans was finding life tough from long range as he again failed to bisect the posts with a penalty.

Still, Quins continued to come though, with Saints bludgeoned back as they tried to relieve the pressure.

Only a fine flying tackle from Ben Foden denied England rival Brown a run at the try line before Saints started to crank up the heat in response.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Again the forwards did their job, forcing Quins to offend in their attempt to halt a lineout drive, but this time Myler’s kick was off target.

Evans levelled things up at the other end 10 minutes before the break as Joe Marler, who was getting under Saints’ skin, beat Tom Mercey in the scrum to win a penalty.

The greasy conditions were stemming any sort of flow among the backs, with power the order of the day.

Quins used their physicality to earn two quick penalties at the start of the second half, the second of which Evans landed to put his side 6-3 up.

Pisi then came agonisingly close to the first try of the game, sliding towards the line before being held up by some typically dogged home defending.

Wilson also had the line in sight soon after but was stopped by a Brown tackle that most Premier League footballers would have been proud of.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Quins couldn’t prevent Saints adding to their tally for long, though, as Myler turned possession into points with an accurate penalty.

Evans missed a chance to put his side back in front a minute later, seeing his kick landing short.

Both sides turned to their bench to inject some much needed freshness to what was turning out to be a stale game.

But Quins replacement Botica had as much luck as the man he replaced, Evans, smacking the right post with what looked a simple penalty attempt.

Saints soon made him pay, with great work from replacements Alex Waller and Jamie Elliott giving Wilson the chance to intelligently scoot round the outside to skid over in the corner.

Myler brilliantly made the conversion to put his men 13-6 up and sensing victory with 15 minutes remaining.

The away side’s cause was to be helped by Easter’s sin-binning five minutes from time, but Myler missed the kick from in front of the posts.

It was to be a horrible couple of minutes for the Saints fly-half, who was soon binned for a deliberate knock-on, referee Andrew Small calling for the TMO to confirm the decision.

Suddenly, Quins, who had looked down and out, were fancying a share of the spoils again but Northampton remained defiant in defence to grind out a superb success.

Match facts

Saints: Foden; K Pisi (Elliott 58), Wilson, Burrell, North; Myler, Fotuali’i (L Dickson 58); Corbisiero (A Waller 62), Hartley (c), Mercey (Denman 45); Lawes (Dickinson 43), Day; Wood, Clark (Dowson 58), Manoa.

Replacements not used: Haywood, G Pisi.

Harlequins: Brown, Williams (Smith 62), Lowe, Casson (Dickson 73), Monye; Evans (Botica 59), Care; Marler (Lambert 59), Gray (Buchanan 14), Doran Jones (Collier 54); Merrick (Guest 64), Robson (c); Fa’asavalu (Wallace 68), Robshaw, Easter.

Referee: Andrew Small

Attendance: 11,498

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson