Premiership: Harlequins 25-30 Northampton Saints

Samu Manoa goes over for Northampton's first try
Samu Manoa goes over for Northampton's first try against Harlequins
Harlequins (8) 25
Tries: Lowe, Clifford, Twomey Cons: Swiel 2 Pens: Swiel 2
Northampton (13) 30
Tries: Manoa, North, Fotuali'i Cons: Myler 3 Pens: Myler 3

Northampton went top of the Premiership with victory over Harlequins in front of a 82,000 sell-out at Twickenham.

George Lowe's early try put Quins ahead, but Samu Manoa's touchdown and two Stephen Myler penalties gave champions Saints 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.

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

It was a welcome return to Twickenham for Jim Mallinder's side, who won their first-ever Premiership title at the stadium by beating Saracens in May.

The game against Northampton was the third time Harlequins have sold out Twickenham

On the balance of play, Harlequins may have deserved more from the game, but Northampton, and in particular fly-half Stephen Myler, were clinical with their chances and retain their league lead after Bath had briefly taken top spot with victory over Exeter earlier on Saturday.

Quins seemed to feed off the bumper crowd early on, and opened the scoring in the sixth minute when Lowe burst his way through bodies after a lovely looped pass from Marland Yarde.

Tim Swiel kicked his side into an eight-point lead, which was short-lived thanks to Myler's accuracy from the tee.

Northampton were being put immense pressure from the home side, but managed to turn Quins around against the run of play as George Pisi's grubber kick forced a line-out five metres from the try-line.

Premiership top six
1. Northampton43
2. Bath42
3. Saracens34
4. Exeter33
5. Leicester31
6. Sale30

The subsequent catch and drive got Manoa over for the score before Myler's extras put the reigning champions ahead.

And, despite having Salesi Ma'afu sin-binned for a high tackle on Lowe, Saints extended their advantage before the break with another Myler kick.

After the break, a dreadful few minutes for Swiel began when he missed a penalty, and ended in having a kick charged down by Manoa, who offloaded to Wales winger North to power over.

Swiel managed to compose himself to kick over his second penalty of the afternoon, but Myler was once more clinical from the tee, before Saints brought on England prop Alex Corbisiero for his first game since September.

Swiel then nearly touched down, but Quins recycled and Clifford crept over, and the South African fly-half converted to bring his side to within five at 23-18.

But Saints once more imposed their authority in the 72nd minute, as Fotuali'i picked up the pieces after Mike Haywood almost barged through and dived over.

Harlequins were given hope of a dramatic end to what had already been an entertaining game when lock Twomey crossed for his first Premiership try, but Northampton stood strong to deny their hosts.

Alex Corbisiero
Northampton's Alex Corbisiero came on for his first match action since September because of a shoulder injury
Khan Fotuali'i
Khan Fotuali'i was taken off in a shoulder brace after scoring his side's third try
Sam Twomey
Harlequins youngster Sam Twomey gave his side hope of a late comeback

Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Hopper, Lowe, Monye; Swiel, Care; Lambert, Ward, Collier; Matthews, Robson; Trayfoot, Clifford, Easter (capt)

Replacements: Gray, Marfo, Sinckler, Twomey, J Chisholm, Dickson, Casson, R Chisholm

Northampton Saints: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, L Dickson; A Waller, Haywood, Ma'afu; Dickinson, Day; Clark, Wood (capt), Manoa

Replacements: McMillan, Corbisiero, Denman, Nutley, Dowson, Fotuali'i, Wilson, Stephenson

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