Van Straaten's late kick saves Sale

Sale 27 Harlequins 27

By Paul Stephens
Saturday 20 December 2003 01:00

Life has not been easy for Sale since they moved to Edgeley Park where they were on the brink of slipping to their fourth Premiership defeat of the season when Mark Cueto scored his second try and Braam van Straaten kicked a nerveless conversion to salvage a draw. Quins will be disappointed that they let victory slip from their grasp. They had a George Harder try disallowed and rarely relaxed their defensive composure in a marvellous match, overflowing with end-to-end action.

Having lost the first two line-outs on their own throw, Quins made no mistake at the third. Tony Diprose took the long ball and loose-head prop Ceri Jones was driven over for the opening try which Andy Dunne converted. The force was definitely with Harlequins as Dunne banged over a 40-metre penalty.

After such a poor start Sale laid siege to the Quins' line. Diprose preceded Jon Dawson to the sin-bin for persistent infringing during some dogged Harlequins' defence before Jos Baxendell went over below the posts. With Van Straaten's conversion to follow, Sale would have been content to turn round only three points adrift.

That never struck Jim Evans as a good idea. Will Greenwood kicked aimlessly into Sharks territory and, as several home players stood looking at one another, Evans picked up the loose ball, came adroitly off his left foot and strode 25 metres for a quite remarkable try. Dunne converted to make it 17-7 to Quins.

The pace remained furious. Cueto scored Sale's second try, then, with Barry Stewart yellow-carded for using a knee, Van Straaten brought the scores level with a long penalty. Quin's next move brought a try for Simon Keogh, converted by Dunne, while another Van Straaten penalty took it to 20-24. A second Dunne penalty looked as if Quins would annex the result, but Cueto and Van Straaten just saved Sale.

Sale: Tries Baxendell, Cueto 2; Conversions Van Straaten 3; Penalties Van Straaten 2. Harlequins: Tries Jones, Evans, Keogh; Conversions Dunne 3; Penalties Dunne 2.

Sale: V Going; M Cueto, B van Straaten, G Bond, S Hanley; J Baxendell, N Walshe; K Yates, M Cairns, B Stewart, I Fullarton, D Schofield, J White, S Pinkerton (capt), C Jones (S Turner, 60).

Harlequins: G Duffy; G Harder, W Greenwood, M Dean (C Bell, 64), S Keogh; A Dunne, S Bemand; C Jones (J Leonard, 62), T Fuga (J Hayter, 69), J Dawson (L Gomez, 62), B Davison (K Rudzki, 62), J Evans, R Winters (K Horstmann, 25-29; Gomez, 30-33), A Vos (capt), T Diprose.

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).

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