Danny Orr inspired Harlequins to a shock opening day victory against the champions at Knowsley Road.
In anything but summer rugby conditions, Saints couldn’t get out of first gear as the snowy conditions and strong wind prevented the treble winners from playing their normal style of expansive, flowing rugby.
The visitors meanwhile played the conditions almost perfectly, basing their surprise win on a rock solid defence and good, steady yards made up the middle.
It was the half back partnership of Danny Orr and Scott Hill that inspired the Londoners to an unexpected win, Orr’s perfectly weighted grubber kick setting up Jon Wells for the game’s clinching try with just 15 minutes to go.
Orr had started the scoring after seven minutes when he intercepted a risky pass by Sean Long and raced 40 metres to go under the posts on his debut.
Harlequins played some very sensible rugby league, and looked very solid in defence. But they were punished for ill discipline when a reverse pass by Keiron Cunningham sent Matt Gidley over for a try on his home debut. Long disappointingly missed a relatively simple kick, and Saints remained 6-4 down.
Saints started to dominate possession a bit more, but still couldn’t find a way through, and they were hit on the counter attack in devastating fashion. Long’s kick was fielded by Chris Melling, another Quins debutant, who evaded the tacklers and raced 70 metres before he was dragged down by Ade Gardner. From the resulting play the ball, quick hands saw Hill send Lee Hopkins over in the corner. 10-4.
But on the stroke of half time, the visitors were reduced to 12 men when Julien Rinaldi, making his first appearance following his winter move from Catalans, was sin binned for persistant offending at the play the ball. Sean Long goaled the penalty right on the hooter, but Harlequins still led 10-6 at the break.
The first ten minutes of the second half were crucial, with Quins down to 12 men, but they held out. Saints pushed to get back in the game, but couldn’t find a way over the whitewash. They were even denied when Maurie Fa’asavalu had apparently put the ball down, but the referee ruled knock on.
And when Orr’s grubber was dived on by Jon Wells, Harlequins were just out of Saints’ grasp. The visitors held firm and recorded a remarkable victory in their first game, one that no-one could have predicted in front of a crowd of 7,515.