Harlequins v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Harlequins v Northampton Saints

Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:12 pm
Saints were beaten by Bath last weekend (picture: Peter Short)

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 12)

Venue: Twickenham Stoop

Date and kick-off time: Sunday, March 7, 2021, 3pm

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Weather: 6c, mostly cloudy

Television coverage: BT Sport 1

Referee: Luke Pearce

Harlequins: Brown; Morris, Marchant, Esterhuizen, Green; Smith, Care; Marler, Baldwin, Louw; Lamb, Lewies (c); J Chisholm, White, Dombrandt.

Replacements: Gray, Els, Kerrod, Young, Kenningham, Landajo, Herron, Northmore.

Saints: Freeman; Proctor, Dingwall, Francis, Sleightholme; Furbank, James; Auterac, Matavesi, Hill; Coles, Ratuniyarawa; Isiekwe, Ludlam (c), Wood.

Replacements: Haywood, Waller, Painter, Moon, Tonks, Taylor, Hutchinson, Mallinder.

Outs: Saints: David Ribbans, Alex Mitchell (both international duty), Teimana Harrison (groin), Shaun Adendorff (knee), Owen Franks (foot), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Courtney Lawes (pectoral) and Kayde Sylvester (Achilles)

Most recent meeting: Saturday, November 28, 2020: Saints 29 Harlequins 49 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: When Harlequins ran riot at Franklin's Gardens back in November, it was easy to point the finger at Saints.

After all, they were in the midst of a shocking losing streak and couldn't buy a win from anywhere.

And consequently, it was simple enough to look at the home side's failings rather that the opposition's strengths.

Quins have hardly torn up trees in recent years and at the time they will still a side Saints were expected to beat.

But what has unfolded since has shown that the men from the Twickenham Stoop are now a force to be reckoned with.

And perhaps it was too hasty to criticise Saints' performance back in November rather than praise that of Quins.

They were pretty ruthless in their execution and, steered superbly by Danny Care and Marcus Smith, they put Saints to the sword.

They have since done similar to Wasps and they were on a four-game winning run before being edged out 25-22 by the Falcons last weekend.

So Saints will know just how tough this Sunday's challenge will be.

Especially as they were outgunned 30-17 on their most recent visit to Quins back in August.

On that day, the hosts ruled the roost at the breakdown, depriving Saints of possession and then striking when they got the chance.

They have racked up a whopping 79 points in their past two meetings with Saints and will hope for more of the same in a clash of two top-four hopefuls this weekend.

But this is another great chance for the black, green and gold to show what they're made of.

They have done just that during 2021, winning all three of their away matches, at Gloucester, Wasps and Exeter Chiefs.

They were defensively solid at Sandy Park and will need to be again if they are to have any hope against Harlequins.

Tom's prediction: Harlequins go into the game full of confidence despite their defeat at Newcastle last weekend as they have been playing really well this season. But Saints have won their past three away matches and will be desperate to make up for last weekend's late lapses as well as their recent shockers against Quins. I'm backing Chris Boyd's men here. Harlequins 22 Saints 27.