Harlequins denied by late penalty as play-off race takes another twist
3rd May 2022 | Rugby
Harlequins suffered a last gasp defeat to Northampton Saints as the race for the play-offs was blown wide open.
In an entertaining game which could have gone either way, Quins were just three minutes away from a bonus-point win that would have booked a play-off berth.
However, the points went to the hosts when James Grayson booted a late penalty from 40 metres to seal a 32-31 win.
On a sunny evening in Northampton, the carpet-like surface and fair conditions resulted in a thrilling spectacle which was open from the early exchanges.
Northampton almost drew first blood with a kick through but Cadan Murley scampered back to touch down and prevent an early score.
The hosts did go ahead in the fourth minute when Tommy Freeman collected an offload and went over for a try which Grayson converted.
Harlequins replied almost instantly when the impressive Huw Jones picked up from the base of a ruck and fed the onrushing Andre Esterhuizen who cantered through. Marcus Smith converted to level the scores.
It was the South African's third Premiership try in as many matches.
Saints thought they had scored when Alex Mitchell seemed destined for the corner only for Danny Care to bring him down inches from the line.
But Saints were undeterred and retook the lead when Lewis Ludlum darted inside to finished off a flowing move. Grayson's conversion made it 14-7.
Smith's penalty reduced the arrears and it needed some resolute defence to keep the score at 14-10 as Joe Marchant somehow cleared the danger when Matt Proctor slipped with the try line at his mercy.
The match took an unfortunate twist when Saints lost their replacement tighthead Paul Hill, forcing referee Matt Carley to order uncontested scrums.
From the first of those scrums, George Furbank exploited the space to score Saints' third try.
Harlequins battled back through bruising carries from Esterhuizen and Wilco Louw as momentum swung towards the visitors.
Moments later Marchant conjured up one of the tries of the season after Smith picked him out with a deft kick-pass out wide.
Joe Marchant chipped and chased and, with the ball drifting out of play, leapt and acrobatically scooped the ball back inside to Jones who ran through to score. Smith added the extras to make it 19-17.
But Saints had the final say of the half. After another uncontested scrum, Alex Waller crashed over despite more valiant defence from Quins. Grayson's conversion made it 26-17 at the break.
The end-to-end contest continued unabated after the interval as Quins scored twice in quick succession to take the lead for the first time.
First birthday boy Alex Dombrandt powered over before slick handling from Smith, Marchant and Esterhuizen released Murley into the corner. Smith converted smartly for a 31-26 lead.
His opposite number Grayson then reduced the arrears by three with 20 minutes remaining.
Harlequins had it all to do when Santiago Garcia Botta saw yellow for a high tackle but the visitors rode out the storm only for Grayson' late penalty to seal Saints' win.
Don't miss Big Summer Kick-Off! One win would put us in the play-offs - and you can be there! - https://www.eticketing.co.uk/harlequins/EDP/Event/Index/1150
Picture credits: JMP/Juan Gasparini for @harlequins.