News: AP: Northampton Saints vs Harlequins - Match Preview
By Simon Robinson
January 3 2012
Northampton Saints welcome Harlequins to Franklin's Gardens this Friday evening for a match which is vital for the Saintly hordes as they seek to consolidate their position in the top four of the Aviva Premiership before the Six Nations strips them of their elite players. COYSDC stalwart, Smurf, looks ahead to an intriguing game...
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS vs. HARLEQUINS
Friday, 6th January 2012 - 7.45pm (ESPN)
Saints take on Quins for New Year's Honours
The first game of 2012 sees first v third at the Gardens. A Harlequins side which has only suffered two defeats this season takes on a Saints team who have lost only one of their last seven league matches.
While the home team's form may have been less spectacular than the visitors this season, they have scored at least twenty points in the last thirteen games - including (winless) visits to Thomond Park, Welford Road and Stade JP Antoine. In the process they have scored 46 tries and conceded 20, with many of the games still in the balance in the last quarter.
In fact, that has been Saints problem in some matches - dominating opponents in terms of possession and territory, but not scoring the points to put the game out of reach. Add to that convincing wins over Saracens, Exeter and Bath but only scoring three tries in each, they could be more comfortably ensconced in third place.
Harlequins, however, started the season with a bang having won their first ten games (then again, Saints won nine out of their first ten last season...) before slipping up against Saracens in the "Big Game" at Twickenham last week. That is their only domestic defeat - the home loss against Toulouse was avenged the week after in France - so can Saints add another "L" to Quins results sheet?
Quins struggled at Sandy Park last time out, with Rory Clegg missing five kicks but bagging the last to take the spoils. Having to play on Saturday following a Tuesday afternoon game didn't help, in addition to missing Evans and Easter - who may both be fit again for Friday's match. Mike Brown is definitely a dangerous player - he ranks in the top five for clean breaks, metres gained, defenders beaten and try assists. Then again, he's top of the turnovers conceded...
Saints last minute try through ex-Falcon Tom May secured a first league five pointer since...Tom May scored two of the six tries against Falcons at FG. However I doubt Quins will give Saints so much possession from lineouts (though Christian Day still tops the lineouts stolen table, not bad considering the Newcastle match was only his seventh appearance) and Saints cannot afford to make as many elementary mistakes in both handling and kicking against the league leaders.
My predicted team (depending on whether Lawes, Calum Clark, Wood and Elliott are fit or not):
I will put my reputation as a visionary on the line here and disagree with you - I dont think it will be close - I think we will see the Saints perfomance of the season and come out with a Try Bonus point with QUinns being blown away... ( there, is that positive enough? - its the new me)
Thank you Connerman. My post wasn't clear, I won't be going to the match that much is certain, but I could be allowed to watch it in the pub (without alcohol) if Junior Fudd hasn't made an appearance by then. I have no sky/ESPN you see, so the only way I will catch it live is at my local (2 minute walk) pub if they are showing it.I shall miss the 'D' block experience whatever
Quins with and without Evans are a different beast (and why not he is world class) . I don't favour Easter at international level but he is also a talisman for the club. If these two return to the line up, it will be a much different Quins team than against EX. A measure of where we are I feel and an indication whether we are serious contenders.
Think we need to dominate up front, and for that we need either Woody or Calum back in the backrow. Big Sam can do a job filling in for Courtney no problem.
Will be interesting to see if we go for JD or May at 12. Personally I'd start with JD and have May on the bench as we did last week - he's the perfect bench-man, can cover every position outside 9 and can have a real influence on the game.
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