Harlequins 41-32 Northampton: Danny Care avoids red card in controversial win

Care was fortunate to have avoided a red card (Getty Images)
Care was fortunate to have avoided a red card (Getty Images)

Danny Care was fortunate to escape a red card as Harlequins claimed a controversial 41-32 win over Northampton in the Big Summer Kick-Off at Twickenham.

Care had already been yellow carded when he appeared to come off his feet at the breakdown to kill the ball, but referee Karl Dickson decided it was only a penalty.

Care was replaced immediately and his replacement, Will Porter, was the player who delivered a brace of tries to seal victory for the home side in the final 20 minutes.

Courtney Lawes did salvage a bonus point for Saints, but they could not leave with a losing bonus point as Jarrod Evans landed a penalty with the final kick of the game.

Harlequins came flying out of the blocks, scoring inside the opening three minutes as Marcus Smith landed a pinpoint cross-field kick into the hands of Luke Northmore, who cruised over the line.

Marcus Smith missed the conversion and Quins were down to 14 men soon after as Care was sin-binned for head-on-head contact with Lawes.

Quins failed with a penalty attempt just before Care returned to the field and Northampton hit back when they scored a counter-attacking try that ended with Tom Litchfield chipping over the top for Ollie Sleightholme to gather and score.

Fin Smith converted and soon added a penalty to his team's tally with a fine strike from long range.

But Harlequins were not behind for too long as Northmore went flying through a gap for his second try, with Marcus Smith converting to make it 12-10.

Northampton had a platform to attack when Andre Esterhuizen knocked on from the restart and, after Louis Lynagh was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, Fin Smith slotted a penalty to put his side back in front.

But Quins then kicked to the corner and stayed patient for Stephan Lewies to score.

Saints thought they had scored when Sam Graham stretched out an arm to ground the ball, but the try was ruled out for a knock-on from Alex Mitchell in the build-up.

Quins rubbed salt into the wound six minutes into the second half as Cadan Murley cantered over, but Northampton cancelled that effort out when George Furbank found James Ramm with an inside pass for a timely score.

A huge moment of controversy followed after 62 minutes as Northampton felt aggrieved when Care came off his feet and played Mitchell inside the Quins 22, but the Quins player avoided a second yellow card and was replaced immediately.

Saints used the penalty to produce a try as Tom Litchfield darted over, allowing Fin Smith to give his side the lead.

But after Tyrone Green returned from the bin, Care's replacement Porter brought Quins another two scores before Northampton bagged a try bonus point through Lawes.

Evans had the final say with a penalty that meant Saints lost their losing bonus point.

Additional reporting from PA