Harlequins shipped five tries and 40 points as Northampton Saints dealt the Londoners their second defeat of the Premiership Rugby season, a performance that left head coach Paul Gustard at a loss for positives.

A trip to Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night to face the league leaders looked a tough one on paper, and when the hosts wrapped up a bonus point within 36 minutes, thanks in large part to a Taqele Naiyaravoro double, life was made all the more difficult.

Quins looked to respond after the break, Caden Murley and Chris Robshaw dragging the visitors back into contention, but Saints switched on the afterburners as they left their opponents empty-handed for their drive back down the M1.

And, with Harlequins now languishing in ninth place in the table, Gustard was left aghast by the collapse that played out before him.

“Disappointing isn’t a strong enough word,” he said of the 40-22 loss.

“We feel a lot of pain, to come here and concede five tries. The manner of them isn’t necessarily what hurts the most, it’s the fact that we’re shipping 40 points.

“We’re Harlequins, we don’t ship points like that. It’s only the third or fourth game since I’ve been involved where we haven’t got a bonus point at least.

“Even at the end we almost got one, but we didn’t keep the ball for long enough and made too many errors.

“Some aspects of our play were better, but for the most part we lost the physical battle, lost the urgency battle and you can’t do that against a good team like Northampton.”

Looking to have got their start to the season back on track with victory over the Bristol Bears last time out, Quins were unable to assert themselves on the early proceedings, as Saints rushed into a 27-3 lead that proved to be unassailable.

And, on the day that Charlie Mulchrone pulled on the jersey for the final time – he is set to move into the Harlequins coaching team following the return of their Rugby World Cup contingent – it was to be a disappointing end to the scrum-half’s playing days.

“It was Charlie Mulchrone’s last game and we wanted to make sure he went out on a high, we wanted to finish on a high because it’s an important league fixture,” Gustard continued.

“It just means that we have to dust ourselves down, have a long, hard look at ourselves, and get back to work.

“We were better in the second half, but still conceded a drop goal for three points, conceded a penalty for three points and then they got a breakaway try.

“The disappointing thing was that we were all over them at the start of the second half and it took 13 or 14 minutes to get a score on the board.

“We’re then running out of time a little bit, and then to concede 13 points off the back of nothing really was tough.”