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Saturday, December 9, 2023
HomePicturesI never would have expected Saints to beat Quins like this

I never would have expected Saints to beat Quins like this

Saints 32 - 31 Harlequins * Dave Ikin captures the action at Franklin's Gardens

There have been two or three games lately where afterwards I’ve been saying to people “that is the best Saints have played this season” and now there is another to add to the mix.

For the fast half Saints crackled and popped, mixing hard straight lines with smart passing, safe hands and blistering pace.

The second half was more about hanging on against the kings of the comeback in the face of injuries and depleted energy but still managing to conjure up points from somewhere. Could Saints really out-Quins Quins?

Player of the Match Alex Mitchell really emptied the tank, delivering a ruck speed that according to the pundits was three seconds faster than Quins for the first 40.

He even boldly took on his opposite number Danny Care – very much The Don of English scrum-halves – in a one on one footrace for the line.

As Mitchell pinned his ears back with the ball tucked under his arm it was clearly a choice he made, nine versus nine, attempting to burn his way round Care on the outside.

There was a little bit of devilment and audacity about it but the old dog was not quite ready to go from champ to chump just yet and smashed Mitchell into touch with a fine tackle. He helped Mitchell up afterwards with a generous smile.

If Saints have learned anything however, it is a way of accepting those humbling moments and not letting them take the wind out of their sails. You’re not a fighter if you can’t take a punch.

The way both players left the field told its own story. Mitchell came off exhausted halfway through the second half to warm applause from the home fans. Care was dismissed seconds from the end, grumpily dissenting with the referee as the match slipped beyond the grasp of Quins. One on one Care might have bested Mitchell but arguably the young pretender gave more to his team than the veteran.

Saints match report

Juarno Augustus, Conor Carey, Paul Hill, Alex Coles, Fraser Dingwall were all lost to injuries adding another dimension to the drama as the bench began to look threadbare. The disciplined ferocity of Lawes and Ludlam kept Quins hands full defensively as Saints incredible first half energy waned in the second.

It felt like the product of so many hard learned lessons when Saints opted to take the tricky long penalty to nudge their noses ahead on the scoreboard in the final minutes. James Grayson (living the rollercoaster life of a fly-half in waiting – sometimes we don’t want anything from him, now we want everything from him) steps up and slots home with nerve and skill.

A huge roar went up at the final whistle and the normally taciturn Saints coaching staff were jubilant. Saracens and Newcastle and the final hurdles between Saints and a top four finish. They are going to be tough games but Saints are starting to show they can win those.

Pictures by Dave Ikin

I'm the editor and owner of The NeneQuirer.

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