Aviva Premiership: Northampton beat Harlequins 13-6 at rain-drenched Twickenham Stoop
Northampton inflicted a first defeat of the season on Harlequins as they ground out an ugly 13-6 triumph.
Last Updated: 14/09/13 8:25am
A match that should have provided the stage for England captaincy hopefuls Chris Robshaw and Tom Wood to demonstrate to head coach Stuart Lancaster who deserves to be at the helm this autumn instead deteriorated into a war of attrition at the Twickenham Stoop.
In the end the contest was settled by a solitary second-half try from James Wilson which Saints' marquee summer signing George North helped to create with some typically powerful running.
Stephen Myler converted and kicked two penalties, but it was a harrowing night for his opposite number Nick Evans, the former New Zealand fly-half who landed only two of six penalty attempts.
Northampton threatened early on but were held up over the goal-line after driving from a line-out, and when Joe Marler was penalised at the ensuing scrum, Myler kicked Saints ahead.
Two missed penalties from Evans hampered Quins, but full-back Mike Brown almost broke through the visiting defence.
Marler, England's third choice loosehead, was in a combative mood, tussling first with Calum Clark and then opposite number Tom Mercey to earn a warning from referee Andrew Small.
Robshaw, who was rested for the summer tour to Argentina enabling Wood to take a post he filled with distinction against the Pumas, then dug Harlequins out of a hole by tidying up at the back of a line-out.
Shortly afterwards it was Brown's turn to pin Northampton back after breaking free down the left wing, evading England rival Ben Foden in the process and Evans would restore parity as he did find the target with a penalty on the half hour.
Saints scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i, making his full debut, defied the dreadful conditions by switching on the afterburners to create space, only to run into touch.
Evans and Myler missed further penalties and then the second half opened with Evans missing a third, before he finally nudged Quins ahead six minutes after the interval.
Worryingly for Saints and England Courtney Lawes was forced from the pitch early in the second half - and would later appear in the stands with strapping around his left thigh and knee - before Myler drew Northampton level.
With Evans missing once again, substitute Ben Botica was brought on - only to blunder with a chance of his own from in front of the posts.
Water was spraying from the players' boots as North began the move which would ultimately be finished by Wilson, the Welshman riding two tackles on a powerful surge to set a platform for the visitors.
A set-piece later Luther Burrell spun the ball wide to Jamie Elliot who combined with Wilson to send the Kiwi outside centre storming over for the decisive try in the 63rd minute.
Quins suffered further when number eight Nick Easter was sin-binned for a professional foul, but moments later Myler followed the Quins back-rower into the bin for a deliberate knock on, but Saints had already done enough to clinch victory.