Saints stroll past Quins into final
April 25, 2014
Replacement Tom Collins proved a thorn in Harlequins' side throughout
© Getty Images
Two moments of inspiration from Kahn Fotuali'i helped Northampton cruise to an 18-10 win over Harlequins that kept alive dreams of an Challenge Cup and Premiership double.
Northampton began with England players Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Luther Burrell on the bench, but Fotuali'i set up one try with a sublime kick and then scored the second before a try from Nick Easter gave the home side a nervy finish.
Saints dominated the first half, despite seeing wing Jamie Elliott shown a yellow card after just three minutes for taking out England full-back Mike Brown in the air as he fielded a cross-field kick in his 22.
On a soaking wet pitch, the scrum was always going to be scene of an important battle.
Early on, Northampton were on the end of two penalties against loosehead Alex Waller, allowing Ben Botica a shot at the posts from nearly 50 metres. but the fly-half, standing in for the injured Nick Evans, was well short.
It meant Northampton survived without conceding in the 10 minutes they spent with 14 men.
The hosts suffered a blow on the 20-minute mark when George North limped out of the action, but a minute later Stephen Myler gave them some recompense with a penalty to put the first points on the board.
Quins had barely entered Northampton's 22 when Ross McMillan burst through the visitors' line on the 22 thanks to a bullet Fotuali'i pass. The scrum-half then kicked to the left wing where North's replacement Tom Collins caught and splashed down for the opening try after 25 minutes.
The move was started by a strong carry from lock James Craig, who had an impressive game in front of watching England coach Stuart Lancaster.
Myler added another three points four minutes before the break and it was only then that Quins had their first sustained attack thanks to a break from Tom Guest that took them five metres away from the try-line but no further. Another scrum penalty at least saw Botica put them on the board to make it 11-3 at half-time.
After losing George Robson in the first half Quins reappeared without full-back Brown, who had needed treatment to his left knee when taken out by Elliott early on.
Botica missed a penalty from the left touchline, and four minutes into the second half Fotuali'i grabbed Northampton's second try after a long deliberation from television match official Jim Yuille decided he had not touched the ball as it squirted out of a ruck.
Although he reached for it, Fotuali'i had not made contact and it bounced into his arms for him to sprint over from 25 metres. Myler converted to make it 18-3.
As Northampton's kicking game went off the boil, so Harlequins finally got going, and Easter wriggled over after Maurie Fa'asavalu smashed his way to within inches of the try-line. Botica converted and it was 18-10 with 17 minutes left.
Northampton looked decidedly edgy, but with their England players coming off the bench and Myler finally finding the corner they held on.
Phil Dowson powers through the Quins defence © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Communication error please reload the page.
Manchester United defender Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to spitting at Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse and will have his case heard on Friday night
Katarina Johnson-Thompson broke Jessica Ennis-Hill's British record, but fell agonisingly short of the world record as she claimed pentathlon gold at the European Indoor Championships in Prague on Friday
England's Matt Ford will take a narrow lead into the third day of the Africa Open after carding a second-round 66 at East London Golf Club
Tottenham midfielder Nabil Bentaleb is poised to sign a new long-term deal at White Hart Lane, sources have told ESPN
Jordan Henderson is not the new Steven Gerrard and any comparisons between them are unfair, according to manager Brendan Rodgers
Where does Anthony Davidson's record of 24 Grands Prix without a point rank him?
ESPN talks to Marcus Ericsson about the "pay driver" label, aiming for his first career points and what life was really like as a rookie during Caterham's chaotic final season
Gareth Bale says he has to be sharp in training or the other Real Madrid galacticos will quickly be on his case
Amid the glitz and glamour of modern grand prix racing it can be all too easy to forget about the men and women that keep the wheels turning. The Grand Prix Trust makes sure that's not the case
A spitting contest. Just what football needs to improve its reputation. You can always rely on football to stoop that little bit lower than you expected. Papiss Cisse of Newcastle United and Jonny Evans of Manchester United, who later protested his innoce
Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has claimed that "someone doesn't like [him]" in a cryptic social media post
Amir Khan is unlikely to face Kell Brook this summer as he looks to negotiate a fight with Miguel Cotto in America
Jose Mourinho has praised his Chelsea team's "warrior" spirit and challenged them to fill their pockets with trophies
Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud have the "mental strength" to spearhead Arsenal's charge for Champions League qualification, according to Arsene Wenger
Luis Suarez is to return to Anfield to play in a charity match arranged by Liverpool
After Nemanja Matic twisted his ankle celebrating Chelsea's League Cup win, ESPN runs down some of the game's most ludicrous injuries
Eight years ago, Steve Bunce was offered the chance of buying a 'share' in Tyson Fury, and it would have been a shrewd investment if he had the money
Who was the 100th man to win a world championship Grand Prix?
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner
Paul Butler tells Inside Boxing he turned down the chance of a trial with Liverpool in order to focus on boxing - and it was the right choice