Saints hit the summit after seeing off Harlequins

George North started the scoring for Saints (pictures: Sharon Lucey)
George North started the scoring for Saints (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

Saints moved to the top of the Aviva Premiership table after beating Harlequins 30-22 at Franklin's Gardens.

It was a fourth successive victory for Jim Mallinder's men, who registered their third bonus-point win in a row.

Nic Groom impressed at scrum-half

Nic Groom impressed at scrum-half

Tries from George North, Tom Collins, Mike Haywood and Ahsee Tuala got the job done in another impressive home performance.

The victory continues Saints' superb revival since the opening-day defeat to Saracens at Twickenham.

And they will now go to Gloucester next Saturday looking to keep their fine form going ahead of the transition to Champions Cup action.

Saints have won each of their three home games so far this season and they started in lively fashion against injury-ravaged Quins.

Mike Haywood finished off a fine team try

Mike Haywood finished off a fine team try

Nic Groom was at the forefront from the off as he rescued a ball to stop a Quins counter-attack and then forced the opposition to concede a lineout five metres from their own line.

Saints used the territory to devastating effect as Wales star North showed incredible power to beat three defenders and dive over the line.

Harry Mallinder, again starting at fly-half, missed the conversion, but the home side had the flying start they wanted, and they continued to pour forward.

But Quins were handed a way back into the game as a poor pass from Luther Burrell was intercepted by full-back Aaron Morris, who sprinted from inside his own half to score.

Ahsee Tuala scored the bonus-point effort

Ahsee Tuala scored the bonus-point effort

Marcus Smith slotted the conversion and, somehow, his side had the lead, despite being on the back foot from the off.

It didn't take Saints long to get back ahead on the scoreboard though as Collins picked a lovely line, was found by Mallinder and sped through the gap before stretching to score.

Mallinder easily added the extras to make it 12-7 and the lead was no more than Saints merited.

Quins did eventually manage to get a foothold in the game and after Teimana Harrison was penalised for not releasing, Smith notched the three points to cut the gap to two.

But Saints responded rapidly with a second potential try-of-the-season contender in as many weeks as some brilliant handling from several players sent Haywood in under the posts.

Mallinder added the extras again before Smith missed a penalty, giving Saints a reprieve in the final minute of the half.

But Quins were to score before the break as Jamie Roberts found space and darted over the whitewash.

Smith missed the conversion to leave Saints 19-15 up at the break, but they would have been feeling they deserved to be further ahead.

And they didn't have to wait too long to extend their advantage when the second half started.

Haywood did some mighty work in the middle of the field, felling gargantuan prop Mark Lambert and forcing Quins to lose possession, and after the ball went wide, Tuala did superbly to evade the attentions of two defenders to score.

Mallinder missed the conversion to leave the lead at nine points.

The No.10 failed to hit the target with a penalty soon after, but he made amends with another effort as Quins failed to keep their cool.

Mallinder then failed to find touch with a penalty and Saints were under pressure, but the fly-half made amends with a superb last-ditch tackle on Marland Yarde to prevent what looked set to be a certain try.

Quins then knocked on as they pushed for the line, with Saints starting to live a little dangerously.

A high tackle gave the away side the chance to go for the corner and North just managed to hold up a huge drive with assistance from Kieran Brookes.

But Quins were to score almost immediately as Dave Ward found just enough space to dot down.

Smith converted and Saints' lead was reduced to five points with 15 minutes remaining.

Stephen Myler was introduced in a bid to steady the ship, with the fly-half receiving a big roar from the home fans as he made his first appearance since April.

There were debuts for props Francois van Wyk and Jamal Ford-Robinson as Saints rang the changes in a bid to regain control of the game.

Quins continued to put the pressure on, but after Saints were awarded a scrum penalty, Myler stepped up to land the kick with aplomb from a tricky position.

That put the game beyond Quins at 30-22 with just two minutes to go and they were rightly denied a late penalty by the TMO as they left the Gardens with nothing.

But for Saints, it was another win that continued their impressive redemption since the opening-day defeat to Saracens.

Saints: Tuala (Foden 68); North, Horne (Myler 66), Burrell, Collins; Mallinder, Groom (Reinach 61); Waller (van Wyk 68), Haywood, Brookes (Ford-Robinson 68); Paterson (Ratuniyarawa 68), Ribbans; Lawes (c), Gibson, Harrison (Dickinson 55).

Harlequins: Morris (Swiel 68); Yarde, Marchant, Roberts, Visser (Alofa Alofa 60); Smith, Care (Lewis 60); Lambert, Ward (c), Sinckler (Swainston 60); Merrick, Matthews (Lamb 71); Glynn (White 55), Clifford, Luamanu.

Referee: Luke Pearce

Attendance: 12,806