Harlequins 25 Northampton 23
Harlequins came back from eight points down to defeat the Northampton Saints 25-23 in the Aviva Premiership semi-final.
The opening half was dominated by the place-kicking of the respective fly-halves, but it was the Saints' Ryan Lamb who had the better of the battle, scoring four three-pointers to Nick Evans' three. Even though there were more attacking opportunities in the second period, the game continued in the same vein. Evans kicked three penalties to Lamb's two before Lee Dickson's try seemingly sealed the win, but another three points from the hosts' stand-off reduced the gap and then Joe Marler went over for a dramatic victory. Both teams went in with a record of winning four of their past five matches, but it was Quins who scored first through the boot of Evans. His opposite number has a reputation for cracking under the pressure of a big occasion and had a mixed start to this encounter. Although Lamb made several mistakes in the opening 10 minutes, the fly-half kicked a well-struck penalty to level matters. He then took Northampton into the lead with a second three-pointer which just snuck over the bar before the hosts' stand-off responded with one of his own almost immediately. The visiting kicker restored the Saints' advantage, but once again Harlequins hit back with their first real attack of the half. Maurie Fa'asavalu was particularly prominent making two powerful surges and, under pressure, Roger Wilson cynically slowed the ball down and was subsequently yellow carded. Evans converted the resultant penalty opportunity before a further Lamb three-pointer saw Northampton into a 12-9 lead at the interval. Despite a disappointing opening period, Quins started the second half in a far more assertive fashion and were rewarded with successive Evans' penalties. But, in a see-saw encounter, the visitors equalised through their fly-half before the same player kicked his sixth from the tee. And then seemingly came the killer blow. After Saints' winger Vasily Artemyev had made a break, good work from George Pisi and James Downey sent Dickson over. However, the hosts showed incredible resistance to come back. Evans initially reduced the deficit with a penalty before Marler touched down for a converted score taking Quins to Twickenham.