These are uplifting times for Harlequins. Played five, won five, their form was franked by this extravaganza, in which they shared a dozen tries. Perhaps it was the weather. This was the first match staged in October which had to have interruptions for official drinks breaks.
With the mercury rising, Quins set off at a scorching pace. They were ahead 48-17 before Sale responded in kind. Will Addison, the Sale centre, was laid out after making a tackle and there was a nine-minute delay while he was carried off on a stretcher. He had a bruise on the back of his neck and was taken to hospital for an x-ray.
This seemed to affect Quins more than the visitors. After the delay, Sale scored three tries in quick succession and they picked up two bonus points in defeat as a result.
"We completely switched off in defence," said Conor O'Shea, Quins' director of rugby. "I thought I'd never see that happen. We played some magnificent rugby in incredibly hot conditions, we're five from five, and yet in the changing room the guys are pretty down. Maybe that's a good thing. It was a cracking game but a bittersweet victory. Fair play to Sale. They played their part to the bitter end."
With the World Cup going on in New Zealand, this stage of the domestic season might be described as the Aviva Premiership-lite. Not that Quins could care less. They set off at a blistering lick and had picked up a bonus-point fourth try within 35 minutes. After two minutes Sam Smith cut a great angle at speed and Chris York, Nick Easter's understudy at No 8, fed inside for the full-back Mike Brown to touch down.
Ollie Kohn marked his 100th appearance for Quins with a try after the graft had been done by his fellow lock, George Robson, at which point the centurion left the pitch, possibly suffering from sunstroke. From the re-start, the ball was run back and Brown went over for his second. That was soon followed by a try from Mark Lambert as the Sale defence was stretched to invisibility.
Quins had the elusive Brown at No 15 but Sale had the equally dynamic Rob Miller. He scored a cracker in the first half from a break by Sam Tuitupou and another in the second. Brown is quick but Miller looks even quicker.
Sale's resurrection was all the more remarkable after the scrum-half Dwayne Peel's pass was intercepted by the former All Black fly-half Nick Evans. He converted his own try to take his contribution to 20 points and promptly left the field, to a standing ovation, to stick his head in a bucket of ice. After Miller's second crossing, there were tries for Vadim Cobilas, Tom Brady and Joaquin Tuculet.
"If the match had gone on for another 10 minutes I think we would have won it," said Steve Diamond, the Sale coach. "It was a weird game. They took us to the cleaners in the first half but with 10 of our best players absent we've a team full of kids who want to have a go."
Quins share that philosophy.
Harlequins M Brown; S Stegmann, G Lowe, J Turner-Hall (T Casson, 59), S Smith; N Evans (R Clegg, 45), K Dickson (R Bolt, 58); M Lambert (J Marler, 47), C Brooker (R Buchanan, 47), T Fairbrother (J Johnston, 44), O Kohn (C Matthews, 34), G Robson, C Robshaw (capt) C York (W Skinner, 65), L Wallace.
Sale Sharks R Miller; T Brady, W Addison (V Cobilas, 70), S Tuitupou (A Higgins, 69), J Tuculet; N Macleod (A Amesbury, 69), D Peel (T Taylor, 59); L Imiolek, M Jones (S Mathie, 56), H Thomas, F McKenzie (T Holmes, 65), K Myall, J Gaskell, M Easter, D Seymour (capt).
Referee M Fox (Leicestershire)