Harlequins shock Bok-laden Sale
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Harlequins marked the return of the English Premiership after the coronavirus lockdown with a shock 16-10 win over a Springbok-laden Sale on Friday.
The Premiership has been in hibernation for five months due to the pandemic and the restart behind closed doors at The Stoop was a predictably scrappy affair.
Sale, who had a number of Boks in their team which included World Cup winners Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager, are expected to challenge league leaders Exeter for the title following Manu Tuilagi’s arrival from Leicester, but they were out-classed by Harlequins.
Harlequins, who gave Chris Ashton his first start, were sharper and smarter throughout and piled over for the decisive try through hooker Scott Baldwin in the third quarter.
Flyhalf Marcus Smith kicked three penalties and a conversion and Quins were rarely out of control, pierced only by Byron McGuigan’s try as Sale exited half-time with a purpose that then deserted them.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) August 14, 2020
It was a low-quality return to action for the competition, marred by 29 penalties and resembling a pre-season game.
The rivals showed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement in different ways, Sale’s players wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Rugby against racism’ while Quins took a knee as part of a circle.
Four of the Sharks also took a knee after the clubs were given free rein to mark the fight against racism in the way they saw fit.
For all the expectations of Sale’s renewed challenge for the Premiership title, it was Quins who made the brighter start and within 20 minutes they had built a lead through two Smith penalties.
Smith’s third penalty extended the lead, while Sale flyhalf Robert du Preez could only pull a simple chance wide of the right post.
England prop Joe Marler was reprimanded by Pearce for his trademark sledging, the official warning “enough commentary Joe, it’s winding people up”, and Sale took their revenge early in the second half.
An attacking line-out saw Tuilagi act as a decoy and, with acres of space created on the right, wing McGuigan completed a routine finish.
But the comeback was stopped in its tracks in the 57th minute when Scott Baldwin crossed over, with Smith adding the conversion.
Pens: Smith 3
For Sale Sharks:
Con: R Du Preez
Yellow card: Simon Hammersley (Sale Sharks, 55)
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 James Lang, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 James Chisholm, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Simon Kerrod, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Will Collier, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Will Evans, 22 Scott Steele, 23 Paul Lasike.
Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Faf de Klerk; 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Jono Ross (Captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jean-Luc du Preez, 3 Will-Griff John, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 James Phillips, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Will Cliff, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Denny Solomona.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Karl Dickson, Paul Dix
TMO: Rowan Kitt