Harlequins 26 Northampton Saints 25
The Premiership Rugby Cup may not feature too highly in the list of priorities for Quins this season – but by rescuing a nearly-lost cause they resurrected their interest.
Friday night’s clash with Northampton Saints at the Stoop appeared destined for a disappointing outcome as far as home fans were concerned.
Trailing 14-25 with about 12 minutes remaining, their heroes had not even managed to get on the scoreboard when Saints were reduced to 13 after having JJ Tonks and Tom Collins sin-binned in quick succession for preventing certain tries.
But The reigning Premiership champions dug deep and after Lennox Anyanwu had bagged a try in the corner for his second of the encounter, Luke Wallace powered over for a bonus point try to leave Jamie Benson with an angled conversion to put Quins ahead by a point.
That crucial kick was by no means the best moment of the night for Benson, even if it did prove crucial. He will remember two dazzling runs from deep through the heart of the Saints defence which almost brought tries.
There had been little hint of the difficulties Quins would find themselves in during the early exchanges, when they raced into a 14-0 lead, courtesy of tries from Anyanwu – after a forwards’ drive – and from Scottish international scrum-half Scott Steele, following a great work near the left touchline from Aaron Morris and Huw Jones.
But they lost their way, allowing Saints to take a 19-14 lead into the break thanks to touchdowns from George Hendy, Mike Haywood and Josh Gillespie.
Had it not been for some truly atrocious kicking from the visitors, the damage might have been even greater as penalties failed to find touch and kicks from hand went out on the full.
Quins really made a mess of their two-man advantage, giving up penalties galore in their indisciplined attempts to take advantage.
To rub salt in their wounds, James Garyson landed a penalty to actually extend Northampton’s lead. But luckily for home fans. Their team roused themselves in the nick of time.
That makes it a loss and a win so far in their pool and Quins are still in the mix in this relatively new competition which replaced the old Anglo-Welsh cup three years ago.
Quins were runners-up in the second edition of the competition – beaten by Sale Sharks in the final – while Saints were the inaugural winners.
It was good opportunity for the hosts to test their reserves of strength in the absence of the key squad members who are on international duty this weekend.
Joe Marchant, Marcus Smith, Joe Marler and Alex Dombrandt are all involved in the England set up against South Africa.
It allowed several fresh faces to stake claims for future inclusion, including Tongan international debutant Viliami Taulani.
Academy players George Hammond – a second rower – and wing Oscar Beard also featured and there was a debut off the bench for tighthead prop Will Hobson.
Skills and kicking coach Charlie Mulchrone said: “The Prem Cup is a great opportunity for the wider senior squad and our younger boys to show what they can do.”