Saints hit by Harlequins fightback as champions win frenetic Twickenham tussle
Saints pushed Harlequins all the way in a thrilling Gallagher Premiership clash at Twickenham - but Alex Dombrandt's hat-trick helped the champions to earn a 41-27 win on Monday evening.
Saints had flown into an early 21-7 lead thanks to two tries from Juarno Augustus and one from Alex Waller.
But Quins hit back and it was they who had the advantage at the break, moving 26-24 ahead when Dombrandt bagged their bonus-point try on the brink of half-time.
Saints briefly went back in front at the start of the second half thanks to a Dan Biggar penalty, but a breakaway score from Louis Lynagh put Quins in control.
And Dombrandt finished it all off, taking the losing bonus point away from Saints as he cruised over from the final play of the game.
It was an agonising defeat for Chris Boyd's side, who had gone into the game sitting one point above Quins in the Premiership standings.
And they certainly looked hungry for the festive fight as George Furbank quickly broke the Quins line and the hosts were forced to infringe.
That allowed the black, green and gold to kick to the corner and Augustus rumbled over from the lineout drive inside the first five minutes.
Biggar converted from the touchline and Saints had a 7-0 lead.
But they didn't lead for long as Quins kicked a penalty of their own into the Saints 22 and remained patient to send Dombrandt over.
Will Edwards added the extras to level the scores but Saints were soon back in front thanks to a very tidy move.
Furbank produced a clever little kick ahead and Augustus also got his boot to it before gathering to score for the second time.
Biggar again converted and Saints were playing some superb rugby.
It wasn't long before they got over again as Lewis Ludlam took them to within range and Waller picked up to score.
Biggar converted brilliantly again from the touchline and Saints held a 21-7 lead after 15 minutes.
But Quins responded again, with their power from close range proving tough to stop.
Eventually Cadan Murley dived over and Edwards converted to cut the gap to seven points.
Saints were frantically trying to slow Quins down at the breakdown, but they were conceding penalties on a regular basis and it meant they couldn't relieve the pressure.
Finally they did, as Ollie Sleightholme produced not only a fine clearance but also the chase to pin Quins back.
Saints looked threatening again but a Biggar knock-on put an end to a promising move as the away side went in pursuit of their bonus-point score.
But it was to be Quins who scored next as they pieced together another nice move that ended with Murley flying over in the corner.
Edwards converted with the help of the right post and Saints suffered another blow as they lost Matt Proctor to a hamstring injury, bringing Rory Hutchinson into the action.
Biggar quickly put Saints back in front with a well-struck penalty after Ludlam had jackalled to fine effect.
The clock was ticking down towards the break and Saints had the ball, but Quins won a penalty, booted it to the corner and snatched the lead as Dombrandt powered over.
Edwards missed the conversion but his team led for the first time in the game as referee Wayne Barnes blew the half-time whistle to bring an end to a frantic first 40 minutes.
Saints started the second half as they had done the first, putting Quins on the back foot and earning a penalty, which Biggar slotted.
The game was turning into a real scrap, literally on one occasion as Matt Symons appeared to land a couple of hits on Api Ratuniyarawa.
Saints were sticking with the champions all the way but they were struck by a sucker punch as Quins broke from inside their own half and Luke Northmore sent Lynagh over.
Edwards missed the conversion but the gap was now four points and Saints had work to do in the final 20 minutes of an enthralling match.
The black, green and gold were creating openings, particularly from turnover, but knock-ons in the Quins half were costing them the chance to get close to the try line.
And Quins looked to be heading for victory when they won a breakdown penalty eight minutes from time, allowing Edwards to step up and put them seven points ahead.
Hutchinson and Danny Care were soon heading to the sin bin after another fight broke out.
But Saints couldn't summon up the one final push they needed and after Courtnall Skosan kicked the ball dead, Quins scored from a scrum, with Dombrandt grabbing his hat-trick try.
Harlequins: Green; Lynagh (Jones 68), Marchant, Esterhuizen, Murley (Northmore 53); Edwards, Care; Marler (Garcia Botta 77), Walker (Musk 78), Collier (Kerrod 67); Symons, Lewies (c) (Tizard 62); Lawday (Taulani 79), Kenningham, Dombrandt.
Saints: Furbank; Sleightholme, Proctor (Hutchinson 32), Dingwall, Skosan; Biggar, Mitchell; Waller (Auterac 62), Matavesi (Fish 64), Painter (Hill 40); Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa (Coles 62); Lawes, Ludlam (c), Augustus (Wood 57).
Referee: Wayne Barnes