Sale Sharks held off a spirited Harlequins outfit 29-19 on Sunday in an absolutely scintillating game of Heineken Cup rugby that saw seven tries being scored at the Stoop.
After a few unappetizing matches played so far this weekend, this was a buffet full of delectable moments that left you with a very satisfied feeling at the end. It was running rugby at its best - Barbarians versus Barbarians if you will, as the rugby ball was moved with zest and at a furious pace.
In a game of two halves, Sale were in charge from the kick-off and at one stage were scoring a point a minute as they raced into a 21-7 lead during the opening quarter. But Quins showed tremendous determination to claw their way back into contention before and after the break to trail by just five points.
However a try by Ben Cohen in the 50th minute of this epic encounter proved to be a match-winning one for Sale as the home side - after several threatening charges on the visitors' line - failed to close the gap.
Dwayne Peel, Nick Macleod, David Seymour and Cohen all crossed for the Sharks as they moved level on points with second-placed Cardiff Blues in a tightly-contested pool.
Harlequins were the architects of their own downfall in front of their home fans and tries from Nick Evans, David Strettle and Nick Easter failed to stop them crashing to a third straight defeat in the competition.
Quins fly-half Evans got the play underway in glorious sunshine at The Stoop and the crowd had just seven minutes to wait before witnessing the first of five tries scored in the opening 40 minutes.
The move started deep in Sale's 22 when full-back Macleod claimed a high catch and the ball was spread wide to Mathew Tait. The former England centre neatly switched the ball inside and Cohen offloaded to Peel who crashed over for a textbook score.
Charlie Hodgson, standing in as captain in place of the injured Dean Schofield, fired over the conversion to give Sale the perfect start.
Harlequins barely had time to regroup before the impressive Macleod dived over for his second Heineken Cup try. Welsh centre Lee Thomas provided the defence-splitting pass to rampaging hooker Neil Briggs, and Macleod was on hand to offer the support and score.
Hodgson's conversion put Sale 14-0 ahead, however Quins got themselves on the board on 19 minutes when Evans scored a virtuoso try. The former New Zealand international collected his delicate chip over the static Sale defence and raced under the posts before converting with ease.
However, Sale sensationally hit back just 10 seconds later. Quins skipper Easter spilled Hodgson's restart under pressure from Briggs and openside flanker Seymour picked up the pieces to score.
The points continued to come thick and fast as the half progressed, Strettle bringing Quins back into the contest after quick hands from Chris Robshaw and Chris Brooker had sent him away down the blindside.
Evans missed the tough touchline conversion and Hodgson's ninth point of the half and first penalty ensured Sale went into the interval 24-12 ahead.
After turning down a three point opportunity at the start of the second half, Quins were eventually rewarded for their ambition on 48 minutes when Easter bundled his way over and Evans converted.
With just one try now seperating the sides the next score was always going to prove crucial.
And on 51 minutes Sale struck again, Hodgson this time made the break and man-of-the-match Seymour was once again in support. The ball was then recycled wide enabling Cohen to race down the wing for a bonus-point score.
Hodgson's miss kept the score at 29-19 to the visitors, and that is how the match ended despite concerted Quins pressure in the latter stages.
Tries: Evans, Strettle, Easter
Cons: Evans 2
Tries: Peel, Macleod, Seymour, Cohen
Cons: Hodgson 3
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 David Strettle, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 George Lowe, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Will Skinner (c), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Robson, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Andress, 2 Chris Brooker, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Tani Fuga, 17 Aston Croall, 18 Mark Lambert, 19 Neil McMillan, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Steve So'oialo, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Williams.
Sale: 15 Nick Macleod, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Lee Thomas, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Charlie Hodgson (c), 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 David Seymour, 6 Carl Fearns, 5 Sean Cox, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Jack Forster, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Eifion Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Gavin Kerr, 18 Martin Halsall, 19 Chris Jones, 20 Luke Abraham, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 David Bishop, 23 Oriol Ripol.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)