Belfast Telegraph

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Quins stay in play-off hunt

Nick Evans scored 12 points as Harlequins kept their Aviva Premiership play-off hopes alive with a dominant 27-12 victory over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

The Sharks took an early 5-0 lead through Tom Brady's try, but Quins responded through Evans and Danny Care touchdowns to give them a 15-5 advantage at the interval.

Conor O'Shea's men continued their good work after the break with Sam Smith going over to take them further ahead.

Although Sale made a couple of incursions into the visiting rearguard following Smith's score, they struggled to make any headway on the scoreboard and the Twickenham Stoop-based team sealed the bonus-point through Maurie Fa'asavalu.

Referee Wayne Barnes awarded the home side a penalty try late on as they had the final word, but it proved scant consolation as Harlequins moved above them into fifth position in the Premiership.

Both sides started with an intent to move the ball wide. Johnny Leota and Brady made charges in the opening two minutes for the Manchester outfit, but it was Quins who arguably had the best chance through Mike Brown.

However, after that move broke down, the Sharks built an incisive attack of their own. Good hands from Danny Cipriani and Sam Tuitupou sent Tom Arscott into space and the full-back's well-timed pass allowed Brady to cross in the right-hand corner.

Sale's stand-off missed a difficult conversion, but it was an ideal start for a team that had won six of their previous seven league matches going into game.

Back came the visitors though. With their internationals now fully integrated following Six Nations duty, they were sprightly in attack, and it did not take them long to respond when Evans spotted a gap in the hosts' rearguard to score.

The fly-half did the rest from the tee before he added a penalty two minutes later to take them 10-5 ahead after 19 minutes.

England stars Brown and Care, as well as Kiwi centre Tim Molenaar, were at the heart of Harlequins' excellence and it was the scrum-half who started and finished a move which began in their own 22.

Steve Diamond's men were slow to react to a quick lineout and a superb attack, which involved several pairs of hands, took play up to Sale line.

A number of phases followed before the pressure eventually told and the half-back darted over the whitewash to give the London-based side a 15-5 advantage at the break.

Diamond needed a response from his charges but it failed to materialise as Quins continued to dominate this encounter.

It was no surprise to see Quins go over for the third time when Smith found space on the left-hand wing and touched down.

Sale responded in a positive fashion as Tuitupou and Dwayne Peel made incursions into opposition territory, but a knock-on at the base of the ruck by the scrum-half prevented Brady from crossing the whitewash for his second try.

That proved to be a crucial moment in the match as the visitors regained their composure and secured the crucial bonus-point score through Fa'asavalu.

Charlie Matthews was sin-binned late on for Quins and, following a number of infringements on their own line, Barnes awarded the Sharks a penalty try, but it proved to be mere consolation.


From Belfast Telegraph