Planet Rugby

Impressive Quins quell the Sharks

11th April 2014 21:42

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SAM SMITH TRY HARLEQUINS SHARKS

Number three: Sam Smith

Harlequins comfortably saw off the threat of Sale Sharks in a key match in the race for the playoffs with a 27-12 victory.

Maurie Fa'asavalu secured the bonus point as Quins answered their critics with a convincing performance up in the north of England.

Sale struck first but from then on it was all about Harlequins, whose persistence in opting to go for tries rather than kicks at goal ultimately paid dividends.

Danny Cipriani had been named the Premiership's best player for March and he exuded confidence early on, the fly-half wrapping around Sam Tuitipou to freeze the Harlequins defence and make the space for Tom Arscott and Tom Brady to combine in the corner. Sale were 5-0 up after five minutes played.

Perhaps in the build-up everyone had forgotten that while Sale had the Player of the Month in their ranks, Nick Evans for Harlequins is still a fine talent.

The former All Black picked off the inside shoulder of Sale prop Vadim Cobilas to go clean through, before stepping inside Tom Arscott and holding off Cipriani for a fine try. Evans' penalty shortly after put Harlequins 10-5 ahead.

What mattered was how Sale coped with Harlequins tempo on both sides of the ball. Inspired by Care, a quickly taken lineout ended a couple of minutes through a try for the England scrum-half at the end of a rapid passage of play.

A flat pass from Evans stretched the Sale defence and after Brown's break had the hosts scrambling, the space was made down the right for Care to snipe his way over in trademark fashion.

Sale's wind had been punched from their stomachs and a response was paramount. They held on in the storm until half-time, Brady's early try feeling like an age ago as the teams retreated into the tunnel.

The crucial first score of the second half though fell the way of Harlequins.

Sam Smith's hot streak continued for the visitors with another try for the Worcester-bound winger, benefiting from good work at the rolling maul from Luke Wallace. Smith scooped up Care's wide pass and beat the defence to go over in the corner.

It left Sale chasing the game at 5-20 down with half an hour remaining, failing to live up to the hype of their pre-game favourites tag and missing the presence of regular skipper Dan Braid, who dropped out through injury before kickoff.

Dwayne Peel brought them back to life with a fine burst that appeared to lead to Brady's second try, only for a knock-on to call Sale back.

Still, it was the shot in the arm they needed. Try as they might however Sale couldn't build the sustained attack to trouble the Harlequins defence.

As the clock wound down Harlequins' attention turned towards the try bonus point, with England's captain providing the inspiration.

Chris Robshaw found the space to set Dave Ward on a rumbling carry deep into Sale territory, before replacement Fa'asavalu drove over to secure both the win and maximum points.

Sale did hit back with a Penalty Try after replacement Charlie Matthews was sent to the bin to cut the deficit.

Harlequins appropriately though had the final word with an attack that came extremely close to a try for Karl Dickson, only for the ball to be held up.

There was to be no fifth try, but this was mission accomplished for Robshaw's men with three games to go in the race for the top four.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Tries: Brady, Penalty
Con: Cipriani

For Harlequins:
Tries: Evans, Care, Smith, Fa'asavalu
Cons: Evans 2
Yellow Card: Matthews

Sale Sharks: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 James Gaskell, 7 David Seymour, 6 Dan Braid (c), 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Jonathan Mills, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Rob Miller

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Ollie Lindsay-Hague, 13 Tim Molenaar, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Luke Wallace, 5 George Robson, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Dave Ward, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Tom Guest, 20 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Ben Botica, 23 Ross Chisholm

Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Geoffrey Warren

by Ben Coles

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