Northampton Saints 29 Harlequins 23: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

George Pisi got stuck in for Saints against Harlequins (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
George Pisi got stuck in for Saints against Harlequins (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints supporters will have had worse Easter Sundays.

First, they got to hear about a defeat for their local rivals, Leicester Tigers, who were beaten by a bit of Danny Cipriani magic as Sale Sharks maintained their unbeaten home record with a 27-20 win.

Then, they were treated to stirring fare at Franklin’s Gardens, where Jim Mallinder’s men enjoyed a second-half resurrection, storming back from eight points down to earn a bonus-point win.

There was no Easter egg-inspired lethargy late on as excitement levels peaked with a Harry Mallinder score.

The son of the boss has been Saints’ saviour a few times this season, including scoring a match-winning try at home to Glasgow Warriors to help his team secure a Champions Cup quarter-final spot.

And this was another key moment in an undulating campaign.

Tom Wood made a huge amount of tackles for Saints

Tom Wood made a huge amount of tackles for Saints

in fact, this could be the biggest of them all as it pushed Saints clear of Quins and earned that vital extra point that moved them above Leicester in the table.

In a game of to-me, to-you that the Chuckle brothers would be proud of, Saints and Tigers are exchanging fourth spot with regularity right now.

And you could see Richard Cockerill’s men going back there by beating Gloucester on Saturday ahead of Saints’ trip to Wasps a day later.

But what Sale’s win, Saints’ success and Mallinder’s score did was ensure that east midlands derby on April 16 will be gargantuan.

Jamie Gibson competed well for Saints but was forced off at half-time with an ankle injury

Jamie Gibson competed well for Saints but was forced off at half-time with an ankle injury

Whatever the results next weekend, Saints will know they can keep their destiny in their own hands because of that head-to-head with Tigers.

And at various points on Sunday that didn’t seem like it would be the case.

When Tigers stormed back to 20-20, it appeared they would do what they usually do: find a way to earn a victory at a vital time.

But Sale shut the door and Cipriani stole the win.

Stephen Myler kept his nerve when it mattered most

Stephen Myler kept his nerve when it mattered most

Then, when Quins scored early in the second half to go eight points up, it looked like Saints might waste their chance to go fourth.

But back they came with a rousing riposte, scoring two more tries in a stunning recovery against a Quins side boosted by the presence of their Six Nations stars.

It was such a crucial comeback and one that earns some momentum going into Sunday’s tricky trip to Wasps.

Dai Young’s men have won nine of their past 10 games, while Saints have won six of their past eight.

It promises to be a Ricoh Arean humdinger.

And Saints fans can now look forward to it safe in the knowledge that their team are still alive in this exhillarating race for the top four.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Will have been disappointed with missing a tackle on Tim Visser, who scored Quins’ first try, but made up for it after the break with a good attacking display and a fine try... 7

KEN PISI

A neat piece of work helped to tee up Mallinder for the crucial bonus-point try and the Samoan was lively all afternoon... 7

GEORGE PISI

Made one jackhammer hit during the first half and he was an influential figure throughout the match... 8

LUTHER BURRELL

It’s fair to say 2016 has been a decent year so far for the bulldozing centre who returned from injury to produce another powerful performance... 8

GEORGE NORTH

Had scored four tries in his past four outings for Wales and flew into this game desperate to make his mark. Was a constant menace... 7

STEPHEN MYLER

Directed play really well for Saints and though conditions were tricky from the tee, he kicked the points that mattered... 8

LEE DICKSON

Was forced off with a head injury, but had been sharp enough until then. A couple of passes were a bit low for his team-mates, but aside from that he did well enough... 7

ALEX WALLER

Scored Saints’ first try and he certainly deserved it in what was a big display from the loosehead prop... 8

MIKE HAYWOOD

Yet another indefatigable showing from the hooker, who has been one of the heroes of Saints’ season so far. His offload for Foden’s try was brilliant... 8

KIERAN BROOKES

Started really well, but suffered a back injury during the game and that hampered his attempts to get to Jack Clifford, who scored Quins’ second try... 6

JAMES CRAIG

An unsung feature of the Saints team during the past few weeks, the lock was once again a calming influence here... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Was due to be on the bench but Christian Day’s absence opened the door and he strode through it, setting up one try and scoring another in a big display... 8

JAMIE GIBSON

Was forced off at half-time with an ankle injury, having worked hard during the first period... 6

TOM WOOD

Another display full of desire from the flanker, who made a huge amount of tackles, showing his work rate to England boss Eddie Jones... 8

TEIMANA HARRISON - CHRON STAR MAN

What a showing from the flanker, who must have caught the eye of the England coaches. He was everywhere, helping to relentlessly push Saints forward... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

SAM DICKINSON (for Gibson 40)

Added more power to proceedings, trying to bulldoze his way out of his own 22 and gaining Saints vital metres... 7

PAUL HILL for (Brookes 47)

Did little wrong after coming on for his England team-mate and once again showed maturity beyond his years... 6