Harlequins 27 Sale 28: Jarvis miss stretches Quins' belief

Agony at the death as kick goes wide to leave the formbook reading six games, six defeats
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It may not have been a million-pound kick this time, but Harlequins' fly-half Adrian Jarvis felt the same pain as Jeremy Staunton 18 months before him, unable to earn victory over Sale in the last minute. Staunton's miss in 2005 cost Quins survival in the Premiership and a major financial hit; Jarvis's wayward conversion from a wide angle seven minutes into added time yesterday ended the home team's interest in the EDF Energy Cup.

And then there was Sale's Daniel Larrechea, experiencing another kind of pain. Larrechea, who hails from France's rugby-mad south-west, was reckoned by his director of rugby, Philippe Saint-André, to have kicked at least the last three of his 13 points with a suspected fracture of the ankle. Ouch-la-la.

So Sale will be favoured to make the semi-finals, with their remaining Pool C match at home to Llanelli Scarlets in December. Some clubs, including Sale, who rested Charlie Hodgson and Jason Robinson, have used the competition to rotate their squad. Quins would love to have that luxury. Andrew Mehrtens and Paul Volley are injured. So too Stuart Abbott, an inside centre candidate for England next month who was listed to make his return from a three-week suspension but pulled out less than five minutes before kick-off with a knee injury, having been unable to train with the national team in midweek.

Further casualties punctuated the first half, when Sale lost David Tait, the England Under-19 back rower, and Quins the scorer of their second try, David Strettle, both to savage twists of the knee. The fellows in charge of the stretcher must have considered attaching a motor to it.

Before the resulting reshuffles Quins' backs had looked a good attacking unit and in the opening quarter Craig McMullen finished a simple move off a scrum and Strettle, a sevens international, corkscrewed into the corner. Thereafter Quins lost a little thrust but Sale were unable to wrest any significant advantage.

Their swashbuckling No 8, Sébastien Chabal, had some eccentric moments. The Frenchman conceded a penalty with a marginally high tackle on the Quins wing Ugo Monye, then sliced horribly a clearing kick from his 22. Perhaps the hirsute Chabal had the sun, which was beating directly downfield, in his eyes. Either that, or his hair.

Otherwise the first half resounded with scoring: a penalty by Jarvis to two by Larrechea followed the lock Sean Cox scoring for the visitors in the eighth minute. It was 39 minutes before Sale held the lead. Oriol Ripol, their Spanish flyer, darted over from Ben Foden's flat pass and Larrechea converted.

But Sale lost Elvis Seveali'i to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle, and Monye skipped through for a try in the 49th minute, converted by Jarvis to put Quins in front again, 22-20.

After a fallow spell Larrechea potted a 30-metre penalty immediately before being substituted "in agony", according to Saint-André. Ironically Quins, whose front five had performed marvellously, were penalised for standing up in the scrum.

Jarvis erred in booting a penalty dead soon after, and Sale responded brutally with Chabal on a touchline charge and the replacement scrum-half Sililo Martens finishing the try. Quins kept going and with a line-out drive and long passes from Jarvis and Hal Luscombe they got Tom Williams in at the left corner.

Ultimately all it did was set up Jarvis for his solitary misfortune. Six defeats out of six adds up to hard times for the multicoloured men.

Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle (T Williams, 38), H Luscombe, C McMullen, U Monye; A Jarvis, A Gomarsall; C Jones, J Richards (A Croall, 40), M Ross (L Ward, 61), O Kohn (N Spanghero, 59), J Evans, N Easter (capt), C Hala'ufia (A Vos, 56), W Skinner.

Sale: M Cueto; O Ripol, C Bell (M Taylor, 59), E Seveali'i, S Hanley; D Larrechea (L Thomas, 72), B Foden (S Martens, 77); E Lewis-Roberts (S Turner, 40), N Briggs (P Gaona, 80), B Stewart (Lewis-Roberts, 66), S Cox, C Day (M Hills, 79), J White (capt), S Chabal, D Tait (JM Fernandez Lobbe, 31).

Referee: S Davey (Sussex).