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Summary

  1. Lowe, Clifford & Twomey score for Harlequins
  2. Manoa, North & Fotuali'i touch down for Northampton
  3. FT: Newcastle 23-25 Saracens
  4. FT: Bath 31-14 Exeter
  5. FT: Sale 30-32 Leicester

Live Reporting

By Brendon Mitchell and Chris Osborne

All times stated are UK

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A fitting finale for 2014

I'd say it's time for us to go and tuck into a turkey sarnie or two, and leave you to enjoy the rest of your Saturday evening.

Many thanks for your company this afternoon, we've had four absolutely cracking Premiership matches to warm the cockles on this bitterly cold December day.

We wish you a tremendous New Year - and we'll see you in 2015.

Review of the day

Saints slip past Quins

Quins v Saints
Getty Images

And we finished with Northampton Saints' return to the top of the Premiership with

a win over plucky Harlequins.

Twickenham was packed with 82,000 spectators as George Lowe's early try put Quins ahead, but Samu Manoa's touchdown and two Stephen Myler penalties gave the champions a 13-8 half-time lead.

A George North score extended the visitors' lead after the break, before Jack Clifford got one back for Quins.

Khan Fotuali'i then crossed for Saints and, despite Sam Twomey's late try for the hosts, Northampton held on.

Review of the day

Saracens survive at Newcastle

Chris Ashton
Getty Images

It was pretty tense between Newcastle and Saracens too.

Juan Pablo Socino missed a last-gasp conversion which would have snatched a draw for the hosts.

Neil de Kock's try helped the visitors into a 10-6 half-time lead, before Sinoti Sinoti then put Newcastle ahead.

Nick Tompkins and Chris Ashton tries secured Saracens victory, even though Chris Harris's try closed the gap.

Review of the day

Tigers bite late at Sale

Sale v Leicester
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It was breathless stuff at Sale, where Julian Salvi's late converted try gave Leicester Tigers a superb bonus-point comeback win.

Chris Cusiter, Will Addison and Nathan Hines crossed to give the hosts a 25-15 half-time lead, with Seremaia Bai and Mathew Tait scoring for Tigers.

Sam Tuitupou put Sale 30-15 up before Miles Benjamin crossed for Tigers and Salvi crossed in the 79th minute.

Review of the day

Bath bully Exeter

Athony Watson
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Bath felt the thrill of being top of the table, albeit for a few hours.

Visitors Exeter had led through Matt Jess, but Bath struck back through Horacio Agulla.

Kyle Eastmond gave the hosts the lead before half-time only for Jack Nowell to draw Chiefs level at 14-14 after the break.

But Dave Attwood and Anthony Watson both ran over to give Bath a deserved - and eventually comfortable - bonus-point victory.

So before we sign off and send 2014 strolling into the sunset, let's recap the day's Premiership action.

It's tight at the top

FT: Harlequins 25-30 Northampton

Table
Chris Osborne

Northampton Saints go back to the top of the Premiership, but Bath's bonus-point win over Exeter has seen them make up a bit of ground.

FT: Harlequins 25-30 Northampton

We've learned a couple of key things this afternoon:

Firstly, Northampton Saints can pretty much turn up, play average, and walk away with a win whenever they like.

Secondly, Harlequins have spirit and, in parts, quality. But lack a cutting edge.

FT: Harlequins 25-30 Northampton

Northampton's California-born prop Samu Manoa, starting every answer with "hey man", told BT Sport: "The boys had to grind it out. But I back my boys and our fitness. "

FT: Harlequins 25-30 Northampton

Brian Moore

Former England hooker on BBC Radio 5 live

"Northampton were the better team, there's no doubt about that. It's been a very entertaining second half."

FT: Harlequins 25-30 Northampton

With 80 minutes up, Saints have a line-out, win it and boot it out. The champions edge home.

Harlequins 25-30 Northampton

That could be it. Quins have the ball in hand but Ross Chisholm knocks on and Saints can breathe a sigh of relief.

Try (Twomey, con Swiel)

Harlequins 25-30 Northampton

Here we go. Buckle up for a sizzling last few minutes.

Harlequins have reminded us that they have contributed to a captivating game today. Danny Care goes swiftly with a tap penalty and the ball travels through the phases and Sam Twomey is over for his first ever Premiership try.

Tim Swiel gets the extras and Harlequins are a converted try away from winning this.

Harlequins 18-30 Northampton

Kahn Fotuali'i paid for his try though. He's gone off with his arm in a sling and Ben Foden shifts up to scrum-half - a position the full-back hasn't played for a few years.

Harlequins 18-30 Northampton

Brian Moore

Former England hooker on BBC Radio 5 live

"Harlequins have simply not had the power and precision to put Northampton to the sword. The Saints can have that and do have that - it's just whether they want to."

Try (Fotuali'i, con Myler)

Harlequins 18-30 Northampton

Saints not only smelt blood, they've gobbled Harlequins up.

Mike Haywood almost barges his way through after great hands from Tom Wood, but Kahn Fotuali'i is on hand to pick up the pieces and dive over. Stephen Myler lands the conversion.

Harlequins 18-23 Northampton

Although Quins are stacking up the penalties as they keep Northampton at bay. Skipper Nick Easter is told by referee Wayne Barnes that the next culprit will be in the bin.

Saints smelling blood.

Harlequins 18-23 Northampton

Harlequins have survived a period of Saints pressure. This few minutes of defensive grit will have played its part if they go and nick this.

Harlequins 18-23 Northampton

Alex Corbisiero believes he has touched down.

Ah. It turns out it he basically dropped it. No try.

Promising signs from the England prop on his return from injury though.

Harlequins 18-23 Northampton

Quins are being a bit fancy free under their own posts, chucking it around like they don't have a care in the world. Eventually they put boot to ball and here come Saints again.

Harlequins 18-23 Northampton

Northampton line-out
Getty Images

It actually turns out to be a pretty useful line-out, but Harlequins defend their line wonderfully. There's another Saints penalty though and once again they go for the line-out.

Harlequins 18-23 Northampton

Harlequins fully deserve to be in this, but do they have enough to topple the champions?

Their ill discipline at scrum time costs them again and Saints can regroup. Oddly, they go for the corner rather than the posts.

Harlequins 18-23 Northampton

A bit of controversy in the build up to that try. Tom Stephenson gets Jack Clifford off the ground and plants him on the floor.

The TV official reckons it's not dangerous though. It's a close call if you ask me.

Try (Clifford, con Swiel)

Harlequins 18-23 Northampton

Finally Harlequins get what they're looking for. After Tim Swiel's near miss, Quins recycle and get their rewards for their persistent banging on the door with Jack Clifford creeping over.

Swiel converts.

Harlequins 11-23 Northampton

So, so close. Tim Swiel may regret cutting his fingernails this morning, as he is millimetres from stretching the ball down over the line.

Replacement

Harlequins 11-23 Northampton

It's a first bit of rugby since September for Alex Corbisiero, who steps into the front row. There's also a change at scrum-half for Saints, with Kahn Fotuali'i coming on for Lee Dickson.

Penalty (Myler)

Harlequins 11-23 Northampton

Don't get too excited Quins fans. Stephen Myler has one of the most reliable boots in the business and he snaffles a Saints penalty to put us back where we were moments ago.

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Andrew Priestley: This is daylight robbery at Twickenham! Clinical from Northampton Saints, but that's why they're the reigning Champions! #bbcrugby

Penalty (Swiel)

Harlequins 11-20 Northampton

Tim Swiel needed that. He's been a bit wobbly off the tee today and even this one isn't convincing. It's between the posts though and the South African has his side's first points of the half.

Harlequins 8-20 Northampton

Quins go through the phases but don't really make the ground they need. Tim Swiel has a chance from the boot though as Saints concede at the breakdown.

Harlequins 8-20 Northampton

A few seconds of madness. Danny Care looks like a genius with a tap penalty. He then looks a fool as he chucks it straight to Ken Pisi.

Pisi looks to be away, but a remarkable tackle by Tim Swiel, with his fingertips, puts the wing on the turf.

Harlequins 8-20 Northampton

You fancy that Saints will miss Samu Manoa a little bit next season.

The American number eight is off to Toulon in the summer and he has pretty much been the difference today. A big loss for Northampton and the Premiership.

Try (North, con Myler)

Harlequins 8-20 Northampton

Nightmare for Quins. Tim Swiel's kick is charged down by a bustling Samu Manoa. He beats Matt Hooper to the loose ball and pops it up to George North.

North doesn't tend to miss these types of chances, and he crosses with ease.

Stephen Myler lands the conversion, and all of Quins' good ground work in the first half could well be for nothing.

Missed penalty (Swiel)

Harlequins 8-13 Northampton

It looks relatively straightforward. But Tim Swiel puts it wide.

Kick-off

Harlequins 8-13 Northampton

As it stands, Saints are back at the top of the Premiership. They have three minutes left to play with Salesi Ma'afu in the sin bin.

Tim Swiel starts the second half and even though Saints retrieve it well, they concede a penalty.

HT: Harlequins 8-13 Northampton

Danny Care
Getty Images

Harlequins didn't just dominate the first half in terms of possession.

They made 82 carries compared to Saints' 19, and made 224 metres against Saints' 53.

Plus, Northampton had to make 72 tackles, Quins made just 19.

But the champions lead by five points - smash and grab anyone?

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John McEnerney: #bbcrugby The Saints more like The Sinners, good to see Alex C back he's a beast & showed it big time in Oz with the Lions!

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What do you make of that first half? Are Saints looking like champions? Will Quins rue some missed opportunities?

Tweet us your thoughts using #bbcrugby.

HT: Harlequins 8-13 Northampton

All the numbers, apart from the key ones, suggest Harlequins should be in a pretty comfortable position right about now.

They had more than 70% of the possession in that first half - which is a massive chunk by anyone's standard.

But champions find a way to win I guess, and Saints, who have been uninspiring, have eked out everything they possibly could from that first half.

HT: Harlequins 8-13 Northampton

Brian Moore

Former England hooker on BBC Radio 5 live

"Northampton have left untouched the attacking potential of both Pisi's, Ben Foden and George North - and I hope for their fans that they get more involved because Saints have so much more to give."