Northampton Saints 36 Harlequins 10: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Ken Pisi scored twice for Saints against Harlequins (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Ken Pisi scored twice for Saints against Harlequins (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

At the start of 2018, the Saints players talked about turning a page.

They spoke about wiping the slate clean.

They wanted to spark a fresh start.

And, most of all, they wanted to make Franklin's Gardens a fortress again.

Their stronghold had been struck by a string of sizeable defeats.

The likes of Saracens, Wasps and Ospreys travelled to Northampton and waltzed away not only with a win, but with a full five points.

Supporters could have been forgiven for thinking talk of turning things around was hollow.

They would have worried that their team did not have what it took to turn aims into reality.

But since 2017 became 2018, ambitions have indeed been realised.

The Saracens shocker at Allianz Park aside, Saints have shown a new-found steel.

And they have managed to live up to their promise to bring the pride back.

Not only did they show immense character to claim a gritty win at Sale last weekend, but they have now won three successive home matches.

They are still 100 per cent at Franklin's Gardens in the new year.

After securing a last-gasp success against Gloucester and producing a classy performance against Clermont Auvergne, they hammered Harlequins.

Saints did what they have had done to them so often this season: they racked up a bonus point before half-time.

In fact, it came in the first 30 minutes as they totally overwhelmed their opposition.

At one stage, Saints had made more than 300 metres, while Quins had struggled to make 30.

Even given the disparity in strength of the two sides, that was quite something.

Saints sent out their big guns - and they fired.

But this wasn't just about players like George North and Piers Francis.

This performance was built on the dynamism of players such as Mike Haywood and Tom Stephenson, both of whom are products of the Saints Academy.

It was also built on the sheer graft of the likes of Jamie Gibson and David Ribbans, who got around the field at a rapid rate of knots.

All in all, a Saints side with semi-final in sight delivered when it mattered.

Now they need to do it all again in the Premiership in the coming weeks.

They have momentum and they must use it to carry them past Bath at The Rec on Friday night.

But make no mistake, the west country side will be facing a very different Saints outfit to the one that finished 2017 with a 50-21 defeat to Harlequins at Twickenham.

This is a Saints side that now believes again.

And the supporters do, too.

The feel-good factor is back at the Gardens, and how Saints would love to maintain that in the weeks and months to come.

If they can, not only could a much more promising league position come their way, but a piece of silverware may also be making its way into the trophy cabinet in March.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

Etched his name on the scoresheet as he sauntered over the line during the first half in what was a strong showing... 7

KEN PISI
The Samoan wing now has five tries in as many matches since the turn of the year having scored twice in an electric display here... 8

NAFI TUITAVAKE
Some touches of class once again and he also made a few determined hits for his team as his good run continues... 7

TOM STEPHENSON
Appeared to be everywhere during the first half, scoring a try and playing a key role in another... 8

GEORGE NORTH
The Wales wing played the full 80 minutes and he was unstoppable at times with Quins putting plenty of men on him as he continued to push them away... 8

PIERS FRANCIS
Kicked well from the tee and looked sharp, but a couple of his kicks from hand were not quite accurate enough... 7

COBUS REINACH
The South African scrum-half is a real livewire and he was at it again here, though there was one rare occasion when he didn't make the right choice... 7

FRANCOIS VAN WYK
A strong display from the prop, who got plenty of pats on the back from his team-mates at scrum time... 7

MIKE HAYWOOD
An all-action display from the hooker who was superb during the first half, with his passing excellent and his energy levels through the roof... 8

KIERAN BROOKES
Really put himself about and took Quins on in the set piece in what was a good display from the prop... 7

API RATUNIYARAWA
Made a couple of key runs once again, with Harlequins struggling to stop him from influencing the game... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY
The experienced lock was constantly cajolling his team-mates and his wisdom is always important... 7

DAVID RIBBANS
Played a key role in Pisi's first try and overall, this was a performance packed with power and enthusiasm... 7

JAMIE GIBSON - CHRON STAR MAN
What a display from the flanker, who made a couple of charges into Quins territory, bossed the lineout and also stopped the opposition in their tracks to start Saints attacks... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON
Had the previous two weeks off and his freshness was apparent as he turned in another impressive showing... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

MITCH EADIE (for Harrison 50)

Got stuck in when he came into the action, helping Saints to see things out after their sensational start to the game... 6

JAMAL FORD-ROBINSON (for Brookes 56)
Harlequins were just starting to ask questions of Saints when the prop came on and he had to be on his toes... 6

NIC GROOM (for Reinach 56)
Saints' work was already done when the South African replaced his compatriot, but he did a couple of tidy pieces of work... 6

Mitch Eadie was a second-half replacement

Mitch Eadie was a second-half replacement