Saints keep double hopes alive

Sat, 26 Apr 2014 07:29
Will face the winners of Sunday's second semifinal, another all-English affair between Wasps and Bath

Kahn Fotuali'i produced two fine pieces of skill as Northampton beat Harlequins 18-10 on Friday to keep alive hopes of a European Challenge Cup and Premiership double.

In this Challenge Cup semifinal, scrumhalf Fotuali'i set up one try with a precise cross-kick and scored another before a try from veteran Harlequins loose forward Nick Easter frayed the nerves of home fans at Franklin's Gardens.

But Northampton held on and will face the winners of Sunday's second semifinal, another all-English affair between Wasps and Bath, in the final of European club rugby's second-tier tournament in Cardiff next month.

Northampton were on top in the first half even though the Saints were briefly down to 14 men after just three minutes when Jamie Elliott was shown a yellow card after tackling Mike Brown while the England full-back was in mid-air fielding a high ball.

But the hosts didn't concede a point while Elliott was in the sin-bin, Ben Botica - standing in for Quins former New Zealand flyhalf Nick Evans - falling short with a 50 metre penalty attempt.

Northampton suffered a setback when Wales wing George North limped off after 20 minutes but, barely 60 seconds later, Stephen Myler kicked the Saints into the lead in front of a crowd that included England coach Stuart Lancaster.

And 3-0 soon became 8-0 when, in the 25th minute, after Ross McMillan had burst through the visitors defence on the back of a quick pass from Fotuali'i, the scrumhalf's cross-kick was caught out on the left wing by North's replacement, Tom Collins, for the opening try.

Myler added another three points before half-time before Botica got Quins on the scoreboard to make it 11-3 to Northampton at the break.

Brown, who appeared to suffer a knee injury in his collision with Elliott, didn't come on for the second half.

Four minutes later things got even worse for Quins when Fotuali'i scored Northampton's second try after the television match official decided he had not made contact with the ball as it came out of a ruck before running in 25 metres for the score.

Myler converted to make it 18-3.

But Quins fought back, Easter going over after a strong drive by Maurie Fa'asavalu. Botica converted and it was 18-10 with 17 minutes left - but that was as good as it got for Quins.

The scorers:

For Northampton Saints:
Collins, Fotuali'i
Con: Myler
Pens: Myler 2

For Harlequins:
Con: Botica
Pen: Botica

Northampton Saints: 15 James Wilson, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 George Pisi, 12 Tim Stephenson, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 Sam Dickinson, 7 Phil Dowson (captain), 6 Calum Clark, 5 James Craig, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Tom Mercey, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Ryan Glynn, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Tom Collins.

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Ben Botica, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Tom Guest, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Louis Grimoldby, 23 Ollie Lindsay-Hague.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey (Ireland), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)