Sale 20 Harlequins 13: Sheridan's power overcomes Quins

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The Independent Online

Sale had to work desperately hard for victory over a gutsy if under-performing Harlequins. With Sale having spent most of the game camped in the Harlequins half it should have resulted in a more comfortable home win, especially as the Sale forwards took the Quins' scrum to pieces, with Andrew Sheridan almost turning Mike Ross inside out. Quins were extremely fortunate to collect a losing bonus point.

Sale needed to win this game. They started with 28 points in fifth place and wanted to keep up the pressure on the top four. Quins had acquitted themselves well at Edgeley Park in recent seasons with a draw and a win, but with only one decent away result this season, at Worcester, they were not given much hope, especially as Sale fielded 13 full internationals.

After a fierce opening from Sale and a series of driving scrums, the ball was moved wide but Mark Cueto passed behind Rory Lamont. However, at the next passage of play, Chris Jones was on the end of a drive for a try which was converted by Charlie Hodgson. Seven points after just seven minutes.

Quins were next in trouble when Hodgson, Oriol Ripol and Luke McAlister chased a loose ball deep in their 22, but somehow the Londoners saved it, courtesy of Tom Guest. But they were under constant pressure. Sale's tackling was ferocious and it was all the Quins' forwards could do to keep them in check.

Paul Volley replaced the try saver, Guest, before Adrian Jarvis struck a penalty to make it 7-3 with seven minutes left on the clock in the first half. When Sébastien Chabal committed a handling offence, Jarvis struck again to reduce Harlequins' arrears to a single point.

Sale responded with another massive drive. With Ross in all sorts of trouble against Sheridan, Hodgson was handed another penalty, but missed badly.

Harlequins began the second half by being driven over their own line but the television match official ruled that no try had been scored. They were on a lucky roll but it looked unlikely to last. With Hodgson receiving medical attention, McAlister slotted a penalty after 10minutes to make it 10-6 to Sale.

This became 17-6 when Ripol scored a sumptuous try. Sale countered after a spell of Quins' pressure and the diminutive Spanish winger collected Lamont's pass before plunging over in the left corner to finish an excellent break from Cueto which Hodgson converted. Ripol was then replaced by Chris Mayor with Sale seemingly home and dry.

However, Tani Fuga was having none of it and his try, with the conversion by Jarvis, gave us a finish to cherish, partially spoiled by Hodgson's last-minute penalty to make it 20-13.

Sale: Tries Chris Jones, Ripol; Penalties McAlister, Hodgson; Conversions Hodgson 2. Harlequins: Try Fuga; Penalties Jarvis 2; Conversion Jarvis.

Sale: M Cueto; R Lamont, L McAlister, L Thomas, O Ripol (C Mayor 57); C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth; A Sheridan, S Bruno (N Briggs 80), S Turner, Chris Jones (N Bonner-Evans 80), D Schofield, J White (S Cox 63), M Lund, S Chabal.

Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle, H Luscombe, T Masson, T Williams (U Monye 52); A Jarvis, D Care; Ceri Jones, G Botha (T Fuga 18-26), M Ross, J Percival, Spanghero (G Robson 75), C Hala'ufia, W Skinner (capt), T Guest (P Volley 26).

Referee: M Small (London).