Try-fest sees Northampton pip Harlequins
This clash between two of the Gallagher Premiership’s most attack-minded teams lived up to the billing, with both scoring five tries, but it was Saints who were able to bounce back from defeat at Leicester last week and inflict on Quins a second straight loss.
Playing a big part in that was academy product Sleightholme, who was making a first league start since January after concussion and hamstring issues checked his progress for many months.
Cadan Murley was making his first appearance of the campaign for Harlequins and it took the Premiership’s top try-scorer last season just five minutes to get back in the groove when he crashed over from Danny Care’s pass.
George Furbank converted to put the hosts 7-5 ahead, a lead preserved by excellent work at the breakdown by Courtney Lawes close to his own line after a threatening carry by Andre Esterhuizen.
Again, however, their lead did not last long and this time it was of their own making as a loose ball from an overthrown line-out in their own 22 led to Tom Pearson putting Saints captain Lewis Ludlam through to score.
Furbank’s conversion put the hosts ahead once more and their lead was extended to 21-12 at half-time thanks to an opportunistic try from Alex Mitchell after a Quins scrum went awry.
A penalty from Furbank within two minutes of the restart drew the gap out to 12 points, but Harlequins were quickly back in the picture.
Tyrone Green’s offload allowed the visitors to work a big overlap on the right, with Smith and Esterhuizen combining to put lock George Hammond in at the corner, Smith converting superbly from the touchline.
But Saints restored some breathing space after 62 minutes when Furbank dummied before advancing and sending Alex Coles under the posts, even if the second row did need two attempts to fully gather.
Once again, Quins hauled themselves back within five points when Will Evans plunged over from close range with 11 minutes left.
Saints looked to have finally closed the game out when George Hendy timed his pass to send Sleightholme sliding in for his second.
But Nathan Jibulu’s close-range score with just under a minute left ensured an enthralling battle remained in the balance right to the last.