Harlequins second best in rain-soaked Sharks clash
9th Jan 2023 | Local Sport
Harlequins fell second best this weekend as they suffered a 16-24 defeat to Sale Sharks at a rain-sodden Twickenham Stoop.
Quins took first blood during the early phases of the fixture, with Italian standoff Tommy Allan kicking a fifth-minute penalty after Sale loosehead Simon McIntyre was caught slowing down the ruck for a three-nil lead.
After a handful of set-piece battles and many knock-ons of the slippery ball from both sides, Sale found the most secure footing in the match for the next half an hour, claiming tries for winger Tom O'Flaherty and fly-half Dan du Preez in the first-half to claim a 6-14 lead at the break after Allan added a second penalty to his account.
Ever the man to conjure some magic, centre Joe Marchant struck early in the second-half to put Quins back on the board and within striking distance. Finding himself in perfect position to regather a spilt ball following a hanging kick from Allan, Marchant pounced on the opportunity as he tore untouched down the left touchline for Quins' first try of the day. With the wide conversion proving just too much for Allan, Marchant had hacked the Sharks' lead to three points.
Despite a brief respite from the rain for Marchant's score, the skies reopened as Sale settled back into their forwards-focused game as hooker Akker van der Merwe splashed down for his side's third score off the back of a rumbling driving maul. No conversion, but the South African had restored his team's eight-point lead at 11-19.
There was a brief break in play as Allan was removed from the field via a stretcher after a rugby incident that found him on the receiving end of a Manu Tuilagi shoulder on the deck. Allan was replaced at fly-half by Will Edwards.
The Sharks tied up their bonus-point in the 63rd minute, with several short-range assaults within the Quins' 22 eventually seeing lock Cobus Wiese muscle his way over. Once again, no conversion.
In hopes of staging an on-brand late comeback victory, scrum-half Danny Care spotted a gap in the Sale defence from the base of the ruck, tearing through around the halfway mark to eat up high-value ground as Quins looked to salvage points from the match.
Set up within the Sale 22 after Care was brought to ground, a handful of further assaults ultimately saw fullback Nick David break a Sale tackle to race in for the Club's second try.
Edwards' conversion was wayward, meaning Sale remained two scores ahead with less than five minutes to play at the restart at 16-24.
A frenetic final five minutes saw Harlequins desperately looking to turnover Sale possession within their own half, on the hunt for another score and a losing bonus-point. Sadly, no further points were added to the Harlequin account, seeing Sale secure a 16-24 victory.
A break from the Champions Cup for Quins, with a trip away to Paris to face Racing 92 preceding a home fixture against Durban-based Cell C Sharks on December 21. Book your tickets for the return clash with the South African side here.
Final score: Harlequins 16 – 24 Sale Sharks
Harlequins 15. Nick David, 14. Cadan Murley, 13. Joe Marchant, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Josh Bassett (61), 10. Tommy Allan (56), 9. Danny Care, 1. Fin Baxter (61), 2. Jack Walker (69), 3. Wilco Louw (55), 4. George Hammond (69), 5. Irne Herbst, 6. Archie White (53), 7. Luke Wallace. 8. Alex Dombrandt – Captain
Replacements: 16. Jack Musk (69), 17. Jordan Els (61), 18. Simon Kerrod (55), 19. Charlie Matthews (69), 20. Tom Lawday (53), 21. Lewis Gjaltema, 22. Will Edwards (56), 23. Oscar Beard (61)