Quins end slump
Harlequins stopped their four match losing run with a comfortable 24-3 win over Sale at the Stoop to allow them to leapfrog their opponents into sixth place in the Aviva Premiership.
The first half was dour with the only scores coming from penalty kicks, three from Ben Botica to one from Danny Cipriani giving the hosts a 9-3 interval lead.
Sale rallied briefly after the restart but a superb team try finished off by Luke Wallace and a further penalty from Botica set the Quins on the road to victory. A late converted try from replacement Jack Clifford rewarded Quins' second half dominance.
Quins were nowhere their best but after their recent efforts, they will be happy with their win against a determined but disappointing Sale as the visitors offered very little in attack.
The home forwards had a battle on their hands as Sale fiercely contested every ruck and maul but behind the scrum Quins had the edge - and ultimately that paid dividends.
Quins were without England squad members, Joe Marler, Chris Robshaw and Mike Brown but Danny Care was released to take up a place on the bench.
Sale made four changes from their previous league line-up against Bath. Tom Arscott, Sam Tuitupou, Henry Thomas and Andrei Ostrikov were all recalled to replace Phil Mackenzie, Andy Forsyth, Vadim Cobilas and the injured Mike Paterson.
Two early errors from Cipriani gave Quins the opportunity to exert early pressure. First the outside half had his first clearance kick charged down and then his 25-metre restart went directly into touch.
Cipriani nearly paid for those errors when Nick Easter appeared to force his way over but the TMO ruled no try as the Quins' captain was deemed to be held up by an excellent tackle from Dwayne Peel.
Quins had the better of the opening quarter but their only reward was a simple penalty from Botica and that was soon nullified when Cipriani kicked one for the visitors after 25 minutes.
Botica put his side back in front with his second penalty with the home side gaining further impetus when Cipriani's restart again went straight out of play.
An excellent kick from Nick Evans secured Quins a platform in the Sale 22 but they couldn't capitalise as poor lineout work enabled Sale to relieve the pressure.
Six minutes before the interval, Quins received a big blow when number eight Tom Guest was carried off on a stretcher, to be replaced by Clifford.
However, the home side received an immediate boost when Botica kicked his third penalty to give Quins a 9-3 interval lead.
Sale withdrew the influential Peel at half-time but the visitors had their best period of the match soon after the restart with some enterprising running from Rob Miller testing the home defence.
However, a lack of creation prevented the visitors gaining any reward for their brief territorial dominance.
Danny Care was brought on for Karl Dickson and immediately Quins scored a splendid try. Nick Easter broke away before an exquisite pass from Botica sent Clifford racing into the visitors 22.
The replacement was hauled down but Quins recycled for Evans to put in a superbly judged crossfield kick to the waiting Luke Wallace, who had no difficulty in collecting to score.
Botica's conversion rebounded back off a post but he added a further penalty after Mark Cueto was penalised for deliberately impeding Wallace, who was set to retrieve another crossfield kick. The Sale wing was spoken to by the referee and was fortunate not to pick up a yellow card.
The disappointing Cipriani was replaced by Joe Ford as Sale emptied their bench in the hope of reversing their fortunes but it was to no avail as Ford's kick was charged down by Clifford, who raced away to clinch victory with a try which Botica converted to finish with a match tally of 14 points.